Heat adaptation in humans: the significance of controlled and regulated variables for experimental design and interpretation

Author: Nigel A. S. Taylor, Sean R. Notley, Michael I. Lindinger

Year: 2020

Published in: European Journal of Applied Physiology (2020)

Herein, the principles of homoeostasis are re-visited, but with an emphasis upon repeated homoeostatic disturbances that give rise to physiological adaptation. The central focus is human heat adaptation, and how, for experimental purposes, one might standardise successive adaptation stimuli, and then evaluate and compare the resulting adaptations. To provide sufficient background for that discussion, the principles of physiological control and regulation have been reviewed. The case is presented that, since it is the regulated variables that drive both the effector organs and the processes of physiological adaptation, then it is those variables (e.g., body temperature) that should be used to set and standardise the adaptation stimuli. Alternatively, some have proposed that the same outcome can be achieved through standardising a controlled variable (e.g., heart rate), and so the merits of that proposition are evaluated. Indeed, it can be an effective approach, although some experimental pitfalls are described to highlight its limitations with regard to between-group (e.g., able-bodied versus spinal-injured participants) and between-treatment comparisons (e.g., hot-water versus hot-air adaptation stimuli). The concept of setting the adaptation stimulus relative to an anaerobic or lactate threshold is also critically evaluated. Finally, an appraisal is offered concerning the merits of three different strategies for using deep-body and mean body temperature changes for evaluating thermoeffector adaptations.