Indirect hand and forearm vasomotion: regional variations in cutaneous thermosensitivity during normothermia and mild hyperthermia
In this experiment, hand and forearm vasomotor activity was investigated during localised, but stable heating and cooling of the face, hand and thigh, under open-loop (clamped) conditions. It was hypothesised that facial stimulation would provoke the most potent vascular changes. Nine individuals participated in two normothermic trials (mean body temperature clamp: 36.6 °C; water-perfused suit and climate chamber) and two mildly hyperthermic trials (37.9 °C). Localised heating (+5 °C) and cooling (−5 °C) stimuli were applied to equal surface areas of the face, hand and thigh (perfusion patches: 15 min), while contralateral forearm or hand blood flows (venous-occlusion plethysmography) were measured (separate trials). Thermal sensation and discomfort votes were recorded before and during each thermal stimulation. When hyperthermic, local heating induced more sensitive vascular responses, with the combined thermosensitivity of both limb segments averaging 0.011 mL·100 mL−1 ·min−1 ·mmHg−1 ·°C−1 , and 0.005 mL·100 mL−1 ·min−1 ·mmHg−1 ·°C−1 during localised cooling (P < 0.05). Inter-site comparisons among the stimulated sites yielded minimal evidence of variations in local thermal sensation, and no differences were observed for vascular conductance (P > 0.05). Therefore, regional differences in vasomotor and sensory sensitivity appeared not to exist. When combined with previous observations of sudomotor sensitivity, it seems that, during mild heating and cooling, regional representations within the somatosensory cortex may not translate into meaningful differences in thermal sensation or the central integration of thermoafferent signals. It was concluded that inter-site variations in the cutaneous thermosensitivity of these thermolytic effectors have minimal physiological significance over the ranges investigated thus far.