Thermal perception thresholds recorded using method of limits change over brief time intervals

Shea T. Palmer, Denis J. Martin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


Quantitative Sensory Testing (QST) of thermal perception thresholds assesses small afferent nerve function. QST has also been widely used to investigate the effects of interventions on the perception of activity within these nerve fibres, often over brief time periods. The natural variation in perception thresholds over brief time periods has not been determined, however, complicating accurate identification of induced changes. The present study therefore investigated changes in thermal perception threshold values within a 1-h period. Twenty-four healthy women volunteers aged 18-28 years (mean 20.6, SD 2.8) undertook cold sensation (CS), warm sensation (WS), cold pain (CP), and hot pain (HP) perception threshold measurements on the thenar eminence of the dominant hand during six 8-min experimental cycles. The order of stimulus presentation was randomized within pre-selected criteria. An adaptation temperature of 32°C, a rate of temperature change of 0.5°C/s, a 3 cm × 3 cm thermode, and a method of limits algorithm were used. Separate two-way ANOVAs with repeated measures showed statistically significant changes over time for WS, CS, and HP ( p< 0.05), but not for CP ( p=0.232). The results indicate that WS, CS, and HP perception thresholds change significantly with repeated testing over a 1-h period. These results should be carefully considered when assessing the importance of observed changes in thermal perception thresholds. In research trials exclusion of a control group would be a fundamental flaw.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)327-334
Number of pages8
JournalSomatosensory and Motor Research
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2005
Externally publishedYes


This work was supported by grants from the Hospital Saving Association and the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy Charitable Trust, and by a PhD studentship bursary from Queen Margaret University College, Edinburgh.


  • Quantitative Sensory Testing
  • Reliability
  • Repeatability
  • Thermal
  • Thresholds

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Sensory Systems


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