APS Annual Meeting at Experimental Biology

Skin Pigmentation, Thermoregulation, and Skin Vascular Function

Symposium — Monday, April 4, 2022 — 8:30 AM - 10:00 AM — Convention Center, Room 201C
Environmental and Exercise Physiology Section — Chair: Brett Wong — Co-Chair: W Larry Kenney

Since the original publications from South African Bantu miners identified race differences in work-heat tolerance, most modern human physiological research, including thermoregulatory research, has been performed on research volunteers of primarily European descent. Recent advances in anthropology have shed light on the evolution of human skin pigmentation and hair morphology, which have both been theorized to have roles in thermoregulation. At the same time, physiologists in Europe and North America have demonstrated disparities in cutaneous microvascular responses to thermal stressors between lightly-pigmented subjects of European descent and darkly-pigmented subjects of African descent, and have made strides toward better understanding the mechanisms mediating those disparities.

This symposium will take a multidisciplinary approach with a combination of topics including (1) the evolutionary basis for skin pigmentation and physiology of temperature regulation, (2) autonomic pathways of body temperature regulation, and (3) medical applications of thermal physiology. The symposium will aim to help attendees better understand and appreciate the impact of human evolution and diversity on physiological responses to environmental heat and cold.  

The symposium will begin with a talk from biological anthropologist, Dr. Nina Jablonski, who will discuss the theories explaining the evolution of human skin pigmentation and hair morphology, the two primary outward traits by which humans are categorized into racial groups. Drs. Clare Eglin and Matt Brothers will then present research demonstrating racial and ethnic differences in responses to cold and heat stressors, respectively. Dr. Brothers will additionally discuss the impact of acute thermal therapy, a novel, easily administered, and practical interventional approach, to ameliorate vascular dysfunction in the African American population. Finally, Dr. S. Tony Wolf will discuss the disparate effects of UVR exposure on cutaneous vascular health through its effects on folate and vitamin D in differently-pigmented skin.


  • Introduction
    Brett Wong — College of Educationand Human Development, Georgia State University
    8:30 AM - 8:35 AM

  • The Evolution of Human Thermoregulation is a Long, Hot Story Involving Skin Pigmentation, Eccrine Sweating, and More

    Nina Jablonski — Anthropology, Pennsylvania State University
    8:35 AM - 8:55 AM

  • Racial and Ethnic Differences in Human Responses to Cold Exposure
    Clare Eglin — Extreme Environments Laboratory School of Sport, University of Portsmouth
    8:55 AM - 9:15 AM

  • Mechanisms of Elevated Cardiovascular Disease Risk in African American Individuals: Impaired Vascular Function and Impact of Acute Thermal Therapy
    Matthew Brothers — Kinesiology, University of Texas-Arlington
    9:15 AM - 9:35 AM

  • Ultraviolet Radiation and Vitamin D-Folate Metabolism in Differently Pigmented Skin
    S Tony Wolf — Kinesiology, Pennsylvania State University
    9:35 AM - 9:55 AM

  • Closing Remarks
    W Larry Kenney — Kinesiology, Pennsylvania State University
    9:55 AM - 10:00 AM

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