Effects of a cool classroom microclimate on cardiac autonomic control and cognitive performances in undergraduate students

Franca Barbic, Maura Minonzio, Beatrice Cairo, Dana Shiffer, Luca Cerina, Paolo Verzeletti, Fabio Badilini, Martino Vaglio, Alberto Porta, Marco Santambrogio, Roberto Gatti, Stefano Rigo, Andrea Bisoglio, Raffaello Furlan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


An inverted U-shape relationship between cognitive performance and indoor temperature with best performance peaking at 21.6 °C was previously described. Little is known on classroom temperature reduction effects on cognitive performances and cardiac autonomic profile, during the cold season. Fifteen students underwent electrocardiogram recording during a lecture in two days in December when classroom temperatures were set as neutral (NEUTRAL, 20-22 °C) and cool (COOL, 16-18 °C). Cognitive performance (memory, verbal ability, reasoning, overall cognitive C-score) was assessed by Cambridge Brain Science cognitive evaluation tool. Cardiac autonomic control was evaluated via the analysis of spontaneous fluctuations of heart period, as the temporal distance between two successive R-wave peaks (RR). Spectral analysis provided the power in the high frequency (HF, 0.15-0.40 Hz) and low frequency (LF, 0.04-0.15 Hz) bands of RR variability. Sympatho-vagal interaction was assessed by LF to HF ratio (LF/HF). Symbolic analysis provided the fraction of RR patterns composed by three heart periods with no variation (0 V%) and two variations (2 V%), taken as markers of cardiac sympathetic and vagal modulations, respectively. The students' thermal comfort was assessed during NEUTRAL and COOL trials. Classroom temperatures were 21.5 ± 0.8 °C and 18.4 ± 0.4 °C during NEUTRAL and COOL. Memory, verbal ability, C-Score were greater during COOL (13.01 ± 3.43, 12.32 ± 2.58, 14.29 ± 2.90) compared to NEUTRAL (9.98 ± 2.26, p = 0.002; 8.57 ± 1.07, p = 0.001 and 10.35 ± 3.20, p = 0.001). LF/HF (2.4 ± 1.7) and 0 V% (23.2 ± 11.1%) were lower during COOL compared to NEUTRAL (3.7 ± 2.8, p = 0.042; 28.1 ± 12.2.1%, p = 0.031). During COOL, 2 V% was greater (30.5 ± 10.9%) compared to NEUTRAL (26.2 ± 11.3, p = 0.047). The students' thermal comfort was slightly reduced during COOL compared to NEUTRAL trial. During cold season, a better cognitive performance was obtained in a cooler indoor setting enabling therefore energy saving too.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)152005
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - Feb 20 2022


  • Autonomic Nervous System
  • Cognition
  • Heart Rate
  • Humans
  • Microclimate
  • Students


Dive into the research topics of 'Effects of a cool classroom microclimate on cardiac autonomic control and cognitive performances in undergraduate students'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this