Abstract

Human thermoregulation is governed by a complex, nonlinear feedback control system. The system consists of thermoreceptors, a controller, and effector mechanisms for heat exchange that coordinate to maintain a central core temperature. A principal route for heat flow between the core and the environment is via convective circulation of blood to arteriovenous anastomoses located in glabrous skin of the hands and feet. This paper presents new human experimental data for thermoregulatory control behavior along with a coupled, detailed control system model specific to the interdependent actions of core temperature and glabrous skin blood flow (GSBF) under defined transient environmental thermal stress. The model was tuned by a nonlinear least-squared curve fitting algorithm to optimally fit the experimental data. Transient GSBF in the model is influenced by core temperature, nonglabrous skin temperature, and the application of selective thermal stimulation. The core temperature in the model is influenced by integrated heat transfer across the nonglabrous body surface and GSBF. Thus, there is a strong cross-coupling between GSBF and core temperature in thermoregulatory function. Both variables include a projection term in the model based on the average rates of their change. Six subjects each completed two thermal protocols to generate data to which the common model was fit. The model coefficients were unique to each of the twelve data sets but produced an excellent agreement between the model and experimental data for the individual trials. The strong match between the model and data confirms the mathematical structure of the control algorithm.

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