Where’s the AC?

Hi everyone! We finished our second full week in France, and are on to our third. The time is flying by! I am really enjoying my time here, and am learning a lot in the two classes we are taking. In our Arts on the Brain course, we talked a bit about varying perceptual experiences. Specifically, we started by talking about how our perception of the color of the sky can be different depending on the time of day and the experiences we have had. This discussion shows that perceptual experiences are not the same from person to person.

A picture of the Paris sky at sunset (Martinez et al., 2017)

I had a conversation with someone about the temperature in Avignon, where we travelled to this weekend. They were freezing, while I was enjoying the beautiful breeze. The 65-70 degree weather with a breeze was absolutely beautiful to me. However, the 85 degrees during the day was much too hot. This conversation combined with my recent interest in differing perception, and adding in the fact that French people don’t love air conditioning, lead me to start wondering about the ways in which people may perceive temperature differently. Similar to our different perception of the color of the sky, do we differ in our perception of temperature as well?

View of Avignon, France from the Palais de Papes

I realize that many people say that people from the north are better at handling the cold. And obviously, the French are better at handling the heat than I am (I miss the AC!). Why are some people more comfortable in different temperatures?

Thermoreceptors are what allow us to detect temperature. These allow us to sense and then respond to the temperature stimuli (Zhang, 2015). Temperature acclimatization is defined as the process in which a person becomes adjusted to their environment’s temperature, through physiological changes (Acclimatization, 2019). This acclimatization would explain people’s differing perceptions of temperatures.

Sensors within the skin, including a thermoreceptor (Pain is Only Skin Deep, 2016)

When someone who is in a cold environment for a short amount of time, the response is to shiver in order to conserve heat. However, when someone has been in a cold environment for a longer period of time, or a chronic cold environment, then the response to regulate heat changes (Castellani and Young, 2016). Eventually shivering decreases, but heat production remains the same.  This is due to brown adipose tissue in the body (Lans et al., 2013). However, this isn’t due to an increase in brown adipose tissue, but instead an increase in non-shivering thermogenesis, or heat production, within the existing tissue (Vosselman et al., 2014). This shows that there are physiological changes in our body when we are exposed to different climates. Non-shivering heat production is increased in people who are in cold environments more often.

It was really interesting to see these changes, but I would say there is research I would be interested to see within this topic. For example, I would be interested to see if there is a change at the neuronal level, such as within the thermoreceptor. Also, is the activation in the brain of people acclimated to the cold different from those who aren’t? Also, I would be interested to know if there is a change for hotter climates, or if it just the decrease of non-shivering thermogenesis. I couldn’t find any research on this, but if any of my readers have heard about this, let me know in the comments!

It is really interesting to know that we have different physiological changes that allow us to be more acclimated to certain climates. Our differing perceptions of the world is so fascinating across all of our senses. This new information might help explain why there is no AC here, so for now I will just enjoy the 65-degree weather when I have the chance and hope I acclimate to warmer weather eventually!






Works Cited:

Acclimatization (adjusting to the temperature). (2019, January 11). Retrieved from https://uihc.org/health-topics/acclimatization-adjusting-temperature

Castellani, J., & Young, A. (2016). Human physiological responses to cold exposure: Acute responses and acclimatization to prolonged exposure. Autonomic Neuroscience: Basic and Clinical,196, 63-74.

Lans, A. A., Hoeks, J., Brans, B., Vijgen, G. H., Visser, M. G., Vosselman, M. J., . . . Lichtenbelt, W. D. (2013). Cold acclimation recruits human brown fat and increases nonshivering thermogenesis. Journal of Clinical Investigation,123(8), 3395-3403. doi:10.1172/jci68993

Vosselman, M. J., Vijgen, G. H., Kingma, B. R., Brans, B., & Lichtenbelt, W. D. (2014). Frequent Extreme Cold Exposure and Brown Fat and Cold-Induced Thermogenesis: A Study in a Monozygotic Twin. PLoS ONE,9(7). doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0101653

Zhang, X. (2015). Molecular sensors and modulators of thermoreception. Channels,9(2), 73-81.


Image 1: Martinez, E., Emily, Meghan, Cynthia, Aubrie, Emily, . . . Desert Safari. (2017, January 06). The 5 Best Sunset Spots in Paris. Retrieved from https://www.theglitteringunknown.com/5-best-sunset-spots-in-paris/

Image 2: My own photo

Image 3: Pain is only skin deep. (2016, February 22). Retrieved from https://kaitlinforwardbiochem.tumblr.com/post/139793441303/pain-is-only-skin-deep



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *