Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

High-density thermal sensitivity maps of the human body


‘Personal comfort systems’ and thermally active clothing are able to warm and cool individual building occupants by transferring heat directly to and from their body surfaces. Such systems would ideally target local body surfaces with high temperature sensitivities. Such sensitivities have not been quantified in detail before. Here we report local thermal sensations and sensitivities for 318 local skin spots distributed over one side of the body, measured on a large number of subjects. Skin temperature changes were induced with a thermal probe 14 mm in diameter, and subjective thermal sensations were surveyed after 10 s. Our neutral base temperature was 31 °C and the spot stimulus was ±5 °C. Cool and warm sensitivities are seen to vary widely by body part. The foot, lower leg and upper chest are much less sensitive than average; in comparison, the cheek, neck back, and seat area are 2–3 times as sensitive to both cooling and warming stimuli. Every body part exhibits stronger sensitivity to cooling (1.3–1.6 times stronger) than to warming. Inter-personal differences and regional variance within body parts were observed to be 2–3 times greater than potential sex differences. These high-density thermal sensitivity maps with appended dataset provide the most comprehensive distributions of cold and warm sensitivity across the human body.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View