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Eur J Appl Physiol. 2010 May;109(1):13-25. doi: 10.1007/s00421-009-1216-1. Epub 2009 Sep 29.

System properties, feedback control and effector coordination of human temperature regulation.

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Medical Faculty, Ruhr-University, Bochum, Germany.


The aim of human temperature regulation is to protect body processes by establishing a relative constancy of deep body temperature (regulated variable), in spite of external and internal influences on it. This is basically achieved by a distributed multi-sensor, multi-processor, multi-effector proportional feedback control system. The paper explains why proportional control implies inherent deviations of the regulated variable from the value in the thermoneutral zone. The concept of feedback of the thermal state of the body, conveniently represented by a high-weighted core temperature (T (c)) and low-weighted peripheral temperatures (T (s)) is equivalent to the control concept of "auxiliary feedback control", using a main (regulated) variable (T (c)), supported by an auxiliary variable (T (s)). This concept implies neither regulation of T (s) nor feedforward control. Steady-states result in the closed control-loop, when the open-loop properties of the (heat transfer) process are compatible with those of the thermoregulatory processors. They are called operating points or balance points and are achieved due to the inherent property of dynamical stability of the thermoregulatory feedback loop. No set-point and no comparison of signals (e.g. actual-set value) are necessary. Metabolic heat production and sweat production, though receiving the same information about the thermal state of the body, are independent effectors with different thresholds and gains. Coordination between one of these effectors and the vasomotor effector is achieved by the fact that changes in the (heat transfer) process evoked by vasomotor control are taken into account by the metabolic/sweat processor.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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