How Do Our Brains React to Textiles?

Friction measured on artificial skin (technical Skin Model/HUMskin) The measurements make it possible to determine the frictional resistance of textiles directly and in a uniform way on human skin. The 99°F business undershirt had the lowest frictional resistance (friction value) in this experiment.
Friction measured on artificial skin (technical Skin Model/HUMskin) The measurements make it possible to determine the frictional resistance of textiles directly and in a uniform way on human skin. The 99°F business undershirt had the lowest frictional resistance (friction value) in this experiment.

This unique study worldwide compared three different materials: linen as control, a premium double rib product made of cotton, and a newly developed business undershirt made by 99°F. All the test materials were initially put through a friction test, as the friction of textiles on human skin can provide important information about the perception of textiles. The friction test showed significant differences between 99°F and the premium double rib product. Without being able to see the different textiles (blind study), the materials were moved on the hand and underarm of test persons using the special textile applicator SOFIA. Contact pressure and application speed were choosen in accordance to how underwear typically moves on the skin. The scientists simultaneously recorded the electrical activity of the brain using a 64 channel EEG. Different sounds were played in parallel to the measurements. The brain’s reaction to these sounds allowed the determination of how the tight contact with the material distracts the participants in the study.

The results were more than surprising: The EEG brain scans showed that all test subjects had far lower mental reserves when linen or the double rib product was applied. Applying the 99°F business undershirt, in contrast, the brain’s response was significantly stronger. The 99°F business undershirt distracted the test person less than the cotton premium brand and left more room in the brain for other thinking processes and alertness. Measurements were neutral, that means that the test samples were not seen by the test persons. Immediately, the brain’s uninfluenceable response to the textile and acoustic stimuli was measured after a few hundred milliseconds. The scientists used a brain response that has been investigated in a number of well-substantiated studies so that they could avoid questionnaires which otherwise are typical of such studies with test persons. Therefore they were able to generate strictly objective data. The results of the study are currently being prepared for a scientific publication in an international renowned journal.

Preliminary results of the SOFIA study demonstrate significant differences between the tested textiles. The 99°F business undershirt was scarcely perceived by all test subjects as a stimulus on the skin, so that the test subjects had greater mental capacity to process other tasks.
Preliminary results of the SOFIA study demonstrate significant differences between the tested textiles. The 99°F business undershirt was scarcely perceived by all test subjects as a stimulus on the skin, so that the test subjects had greater mental capacity to process other tasks.

What might be the impact of the SOFIA study on the textile world, regardless of its academic significance? Firstly, the results are relevant when it comes to the development or optimization of specific clothing so that it does not unnecessarily distract the wearer, but actively supports whatever the wearer is doing (e.g. CI wear, military clothing, clothing for pilots or air traffic controllers and so on). Secondly, the researchers working with Prof. Dr. Dirk Höfer (Hohenstein Institute) and Dr. Kai-Markus Müller (Neuromarketing Labs) are able to measure the potential impact of textiles on concentration directly on the brain and therefore to make reliable statements about the acceptance of textiles.

Dr. Kai-Markus Müller is the managing director and founder of The Neuromarketing Labs. He worked in basic brain research for over 10 years and has had several years of experience in private enterprises, including as a management consultant at Simon-Kucher & Partners. He founded The Neuromarketing Labs in 2011 to provide the industry with state-of-the-art neuroscience findings and research methods.

Prof. Dr. Dirk Höfer is director of the Dept. of Hygiene, Environment & Medicine and Dy. Director of the Hohenstein Institut für Textilinnovation gGmbH (HIT). His interest is focused on textile-related influences on health. He has developed numerous medical textiles with protective and therapeutic functions and refined methods and models for examining the effect of materials in contact with humans or microorganisms. As a specialist physician for anatomy he is interested in the perception of textiles on human skin from a neurophysiological point of view.

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