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Ageing Res Rev. 2011 Jan;10(1):80-92. doi: 10.1016/j.arr.2010.04.009. Epub 2010 May 26.

Thermal sensitivity in the elderly: a review.

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Laboratoire d'Imagerie & Neurosciences Cognitives, FRE 3289 Université de Strasbourg - CNRS, 21 Rue Becquerel, 67 087 Strasbourg, France.


Aging is associated with a progressive decrease in thermal perception, as revealed by increased thermal detection thresholds in the elderly. This reduction in thermosensitivity follows a distal-proximal pattern, with more pronounced decrements observed in the limbs and in the perception of warmth vs. cold. The main underlying causes of this seem to be aging of the skin and subsequent reductions in thermoreceptor density and superficial skin blood flow. However, the results from some animal studies also suggest that changes in the peripheral nerve system, particularly fiber loss and decreased conduction velocity, may also be involved. In this paper, we review age-related changes in the thermal sensitivity of humans, their underlying mechanisms, and the strengths and limitations of some of the methodologies used to assess these changes.

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