J17 Influence of head-mounted virtual reality (VR) on psychological and physiological responses in the heat


  • Finlay Morgan University of Portsmouth
  • Harry S Mayes University of Portsmouth
  • Joseph T Costello University of Portsmouth




Evidence suggests that vision may play a role in the perception of temperature in humans (Mayes et al., 2023, J Therm Bio, 112, 103488). Virtual reality (VR) has garnered attention for its potential applications in various domains, including sports training and rehabilitation. However, the psychophysiological effects of using VR in hot environments remain relatively unexplored. The present study tested the hypothesis that a ‘cold’ visual environment would decrease thermal perception when compared to a ‘hot’ visual environment during passive heat exposure. Twelve healthy participants (2 females) [mean ± SD, age: 24 ± 5 years; stature: 174 ± 9 cm; mass: 72 ± 8 kg] provided their written informed consent to participate in this study. Ethical approval was obtained from the Faculty of Science and Health’s Ethics Committee at The University of Portsmouth. In a within-participant, randomised, controlled crossover design participants completed a familiarisation visit followed by three experimental sessions in 40°C (50% r.h.). The three conditions were: no virtual reality (NoVR), virtual reality displaying an arid landscape (HotVR), and virtual reality displaying a snow-covered landscape (ColdVR). Thermal sensation, thermal comfort, skin wetness, heart rate, rectal temperature, and four-site skin temperature were recorded. Mean skin temperature and mean body temperature were subsequently calculated. Data were analysed using a 3 (Condition [NoVR, VRHot, VRCold]) × 7 (Time [Pre, 5-, 10-, 15-, 20-, 25-, 30-min post-VR exposure]) repeated measures ANOVA. The main effects of condition, time, and their interaction were explored, with statistical significance accepted at P < 0.05. The use of VR in the heat resulted in increased thermal sensation, skin wetness, mean skin temperature, mean body temperature, and heart rate over time (all P < 0.05). However, the manipulation of the visual environment did not alter perceptual or physiological variables (all P > 0.05). Significant interaction effects were observed for mean skin temperature and mean body temperature; however, these minimal differences were considered not meaningful. In conclusion, these novel data indicate that using VR to manipulate the virtual environment in the heat does not meaningfully alter perceptual or physiological responses. These findings also suggest that VR may be used within settings such as the military and elite-sport without any deleterious effects. Future work should look to examine the effects of using VR whilst exercising on perceptual and physiological measures.