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J Appl Physiol (1985). 2006 Nov;101(5):1481-8. Epub 2006 Jul 13.

How the body controls brain temperature: the temperature shielding effect of cerebral blood flow.

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  • 1Department of Chemistry, Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri, USA.


Normal brain functioning largely depends on maintaining brain temperature. However, the mechanisms protecting brain against a cooler environment are poorly understood. Reported herein is the first detailed measurement of the brain-temperature profile. It is found to be exponential, defined by a characteristic temperature shielding length, with cooler peripheral areas and a warmer brain core approaching body temperature. Direct cerebral blood flow (CBF) measurements with microspheres show that the characteristic temperature shielding length is inversely proportional to the square root of CBF in excellent agreement with a theoretical model. This "temperature shielding effect" quantifies the means by which CBF prevents "extracranial cold" from penetrating deep brain structures. The effect is crucial for research and clinical applications; the relationship between brain, body, and extracranial temperatures can now be quantitatively predicted.

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