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 T S Pattinson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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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 hypothesized that interoceptive ability may explain the disconnect between measures of physiology and symptom experience in AMS.

Methods: Two groups of 18 participants were recruited to complete a respiratory interoceptive task three times at 2-week intervals. The control group remained in Birmingham (140 m altitude) for all three tests. The altitude group completed test 1 in Birmingham, test 2 the day after arrival at 2,624 m, and test 3 at 2,728 m after an 11-day trek at high altitude (up to 4,800 m).

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
Pages (from-to)69-77
Number of pages9
JournalHigh Altitude Medicine and Biology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 28 Mar 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was funded by JABBS Foundation.

Publisher Copyright:
© Benjamin James Talks et al., 2022; Published by Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. 2022.


  • acute mountain sickness
  • altitude
  • breathlessness
  • exercise
  • filter detection task
  • interoception

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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