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AANS Neurosurgeon | Volume 26, Number 2, 2017

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Novel Study Is First to Demonstrate Brain Mechanisms That Give “the Iceman” Unusual Resistance to Cold

The findings suggest that his method could be relevant for management of some autoimmune and psychiatric disorders

 

Dutch adventurer Wim Hof is known as “The Iceman” for good reason. Hof established several world records for prolonged resistance to cold exposure, an ability he attributes to a self-developed set of techniques of breathing and meditation — known as the Wim Hof Method — that have been covered by the BBC, CNN, National Geographic and other global media outlets. Yet, how his brain responds during cold exposure and what brain mechanisms may endow him with this resistance have not been studied — until now. 

Wayne State University School of Medicine professors Otto Muzik, Ph.D., and Vaibhav Diwadkar, Ph.D., changed that. Their publication, “Brain Over Body: A study on the willful regulation of autonomic function during cold exposure,” is the first to study how The Iceman’s brain responds during experimentally controlled whole-body cold exposure. These investigations are part of the scientists’ series of seminal studies launched in 2014 on how the human brain responds to thermoregulatory challenges. The results document compelling brain processes in The Iceman and present intriguing possibilities for how his techniques might exert positive effects related to disorders of the immune system and even psychiatry.

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