The effect of stress on core and peripheral body temperature in humans

C.H. Vinkers, R. Penning, J. Hellhammer, J.C. Verster, J.H.G.M. Klaessens, B. Olivier, C.J. Kalkman

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Even though there are indications that stress influences body temperature in humans, no study has systematically investigated the effects of stress on core and peripheral body temperature. The present study therefore aimed to investigate the effects of acute psychosocial stress on body temperature using different readout measurements. In two independent studies, male and female participants were exposed to a standardized laboratory stress task (the Trier Social Stress Test, TSST) or a non-stressful control task. Core temperature (intestinal and temporal artery) and peripheral temperature (facial and body skin temperature) were measured. Compared to the control condition, stress exposure decreased intestinal temperature but did not affect temporal artery temperature. Stress exposure resulted in changes in skin temperature that followed a gradient-like pattern, with decreases at distal skin locations such as the fingertip and finger base and unchanged skin temperature at proximal regions such as the infra-clavicular area. Stress-induced effects on facial temperature displayed a sex-specific pattern, with decreased nasal skin temperature in females and increased cheek temperature in males. In conclusion, the amplitude and direction of stress-induced temperature changes depend on the site of temperature measurement in humans. This precludes a direct translation of the preclinical stress-induced hyperthermia paradigm, in which core temperature uniformly rises in response to stress to the human situation. Nevertheless, the effects of stress result in consistent temperature changes. Therefore, the present study supports the inclusion of body temperature as a physiological readout parameter of stress in future studies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)520-530
Number of pages11
JournalStress: The International Journal on the Biology of Stress
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2013


  • Body Temperature
  • Face
  • Female
  • Heart Rate
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Skin Temperature
  • Stress, Psychological/physiopathology

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