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New brain study says that people really do get dumber when temperatures get hotter

A recent Harvard University study found that the human brain functions 13 percent slower when it has to work in extreme heat. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

You've probably heard people complain how it seems like people get dumber when the temperatures get hotter. Well, as it turns out, there appears to be some truth in that belief, according to a study published Tuesday on the PLOS Medicine website.

Researchers from Harvard University's T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that the human brain functions 13 percent slower when it has to work in extreme heat.

How was the study conducted?

Scientists studied 44 college students over a 12-day period in Boston in July 2016, one of the city's worst heat waves on record, according to KDKA-TV.

Twenty-two undergrads lived in air-conditioned brick-based buildings while the other 22 lived in similar type buildings with no air conditioning.

Scientists added that the buildings the students lived in made the effect of heat on their brains even worse.

“These buildings have a hard time shedding heat during hotter summer days created by the changing climate, giving rise to indoor heat waves,” study co-author Joseph Allen told KDKA in a press release.

The participants performed two self-administered cognition tests each day.

What were the findings?

Those living in the buildings without air conditioning performed more than 13 percent worse on math and memory tests than their cohorts who lived in air-conditioned dorms.

There's long been a belief that older people or those who are ill are the ones whose health is most at-risk during higher temperatures.

“Most of the research on the health effects of heat has been done in vulnerable populations, such as the elderly, creating the perception that the general population is not at risk from heat waves,” Jose Guillermo Cedeño-Laurent, the study's lead author said in the release.

“Knowing what the risks are across different populations is critical considering that in many cities… the number of heat waves is projected to increase due to climate change.”

Harvard University Climate Change Solutions funded the study.

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