Baseline psychological traits contribute to Lake Louise Acute Mountain Sickness score at high altitude

Benjamin James Talks, Catherine Campbell, Stephanie J Larcombe, Lucy Marlow, Sarah L Finnegan, Christopher T Lewis, Samuel J E Lucas, Olivia K Harrison, Kyle TS Pattinson

Research output: Working paper/PreprintPreprint


Background: Interoception refers to an individual’s ability to sense their internal bodily sensations. Acute mountain sickness (AMS) is a common feature of ascent to high altitude that is only partially explained by measures of peripheral physiology. We hypothesised that interoceptive ability may explain the disconnect between measures of physiology and symptom experience in AMS.

Methods and Material: Two groups of 18 participants were recruited to complete a respiratory interoceptive task three times at two-week intervals. The control group remained in Birmingham (140m altitude) for all three tests. The altitude group completed test 1 in Birmingham, test 2 the day after arrival at 2624m, and test 3 at 2728m after an 11-day trek at high altitude (up to 4800m).

Results: By measuring changes to metacognitive performance, we showed that acute ascent to altitude neither presented an interoceptive challenge, nor acted as interoceptive training. However, AMS symptom burden throughout the trek was found to relate to sea-level measures of anxiety, agoraphobia, and neuroticism.

Conclusions: This suggests that the Lake Louise AMS score is not solely a reflection of physiological changes on ascent to high altitude, despite often being used as such by researchers and commercial trekking companies alike.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 23 Jul 2021


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