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Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2007 Jan;292(1):R37-46. Epub 2006 Sep 28.

Thermoregulation: some concepts have changed. Functional architecture of the thermoregulatory system.

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Systemic Inflammation Laboratory, Trauma Research, St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center, Phoenix, AZ 85013, USA.


While summarizing the current understanding of how body temperature (T(b)) is regulated, this review discusses the recent progress in the following areas: central and peripheral thermosensitivity and temperature-activated transient receptor potential (TRP) channels; afferent neuronal pathways from peripheral thermosensors; and efferent thermoeffector pathways. It is proposed that activation of temperature-sensitive TRP channels is a mechanism of peripheral thermosensitivity. Special attention is paid to the functional architecture of the thermoregulatory system. The notion that deep T(b) is regulated by a unified system with a single controller is rejected. It is proposed that T(b) is regulated by independent thermoeffector loops, each having its own afferent and efferent branches. The activity of each thermoeffector is triggered by a unique combination of shell and core T(b)s. Temperature-dependent phase transitions in thermosensory neurons cause sequential activation of all neurons of the corresponding thermoeffector loop and eventually a thermoeffector response. No computation of an integrated T(b) or its comparison with an obvious or hidden set point of a unified system is necessary. Coordination between thermoeffectors is achieved through their common controlled variable, T(b). The described model incorporates Kobayashi's views, but Kobayashi's proposal to eliminate the term sensor is rejected. A case against the term set point is also made. Because this term is historically associated with a unified control system, it is more misleading than informative. The term balance point is proposed to designate the regulated level of T(b) and to attract attention to the multiple feedback, feedforward, and open-loop components that contribute to thermal balance.

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