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1. The initial respiratory and cardiac responses to cold water immersion are thought
to be responsible for a significant number of open water deaths each year. Previous
research has demonstrated that the magnitude of these responses can be reduced by
repeated immersions in cold waterwhether the site of habituation is central or peripheral.
2. Two groups of subjects undertook two 3 min head-out immersions in stirred water
at 10 C of the right-hand side of the body (R). Between these two immersions (3 whole
days) the control group (n = 7) were not exposed to cold water, but the habituation
group (n = 8) undertook a further six 3 min head-out immersions in stirred water at
10 C of the left-hand side of the body (L). 3. Repeated L immersions reduced (P <
0.01) the heart rate, respiratory frequency and volume responses. During the second
R immersion a reduction (P < 0.05) in the magnitude of the responses evoked was seen
in the habituation group but not in the control group, despite both groups having
identical skin temperature profiles. 4. It is concluded that the mechanisms involved
in producing habituation of the initial responses are located more centrally than
the peripheral receptors.