Water immersion skin wrinkling : modulatory influences of age, sex, body mass index, and physical activity status

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Kava, Jonathon Louis

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From the evolutionary perspective, water immersion skin wrinkling (WISW) is the perceived water drainage from the digit pulp to enhance grip in wet conditions. In modern medicine, it is a noninvasive test of a limb’s sympathetic function. To date, research has not sufficiently explored this phenomenon. It is not clear if the common demographic variations (e.g., age, sex) that affect overall cardio-autonomic health status also affect WISW. Purpose: We determined whether age, sex, body mass index (BMI), and physical activity status modulate peak WISW. We also determined hand volume changes before and after water immersion to see if WISW is associated with osmotic reactions or edema. Because the assessment of WISW is routinely conducted with subjective visual inspection, computer-determined assessments of WISW were also included. Methods: Thirty nine apparently healthy adults (19 females) submerged their hand in 40°C water for 30 minutes. The degree of skin wrinkling of the hand was visually assessed on a 5-point scale (0 to 4) on 10-minute intervals. In addition to the visual determination, the acquired images were also analyzed to derive objectively-assessed WISW scores using a customized software. The participants’ WISW was monitored for an additional 40 minutes after submersion to evaluate the recovery of hand wrinkles. Results: Visually-assessed WISW ranged from 0 to 16 with a mean±SEM score of 13.4±0.7. Visually-assessed and software-assessed maximal WISW scores are correlated with each other (Pearson’s r = 0.72, Spearman’s r = 0.80, P<0.01). Age, sex, BMI, exercise modality and intensity were not associated with WISW scores in correlational analyses. When the participants were divided into groups of different age, sex, BMI, exercise modality and intensity, there were no group differences. Participants with family history of two or more diseases displayed a lower visually-assessed WISW score than those with a family history of one or fewer diseases (P<0.05). Participants with individual history of one or more diseases had a lower software-assessed WISW score than individuals with no history of disease (7.0±0.9 vs. 10.3±1.3, P<0.05). Hand and forearm volume did not change significantly with water immersion (505±98 vs. 515±99 ml) and were not associated with peak WISW (r=-0.03). Forty minutes after the water immersion, WISW scores were still above baseline. Conclusion: The present findings indicate that WISW is not associated with age, sex, BMI, exercise habit, edema, or osmotic reactions. Presence of individual history of disease and family history of disease are associated with reduced WISW responses


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