Ideally, textiles should not be consciously perceived while they are worn, so that we are left unaffected by our clothing. However, clothing design, the quality of materials and the seams of textiles can demand more attention from the brain than one would like during a working day.
People who have to wear corporate identity (CI) clothing can tell a thing or two about constantly rubbing or scratching labels or seams and blouses that are too tight. The SOFIA study, which took an EEG brain scan of 24 test subjects while they were wearing business underwear, has now demonstrated the significant impact of tight textiles on our capacity to think.
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.
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.
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