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Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2011 Nov;301(5):R1207-28. doi: 10.1152/ajpregu.00109.2011. Epub 2011 Sep 7.

Central circuitries for body temperature regulation and fever.

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  • 1Career-Path Promotion Unit for Young Life Scientists, Kyoto Univ., School of Medicine Bldg. E, Yoshida-Konoe-cho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto 606-8501, Japan.


Body temperature regulation is a fundamental homeostatic function that is governed by the central nervous system in homeothermic animals, including humans. The central thermoregulatory system also functions for host defense from invading pathogens by elevating body core temperature, a response known as fever. Thermoregulation and fever involve a variety of involuntary effector responses, and this review summarizes the current understandings of the central circuitry mechanisms that underlie nonshivering thermogenesis in brown adipose tissue, shivering thermogenesis in skeletal muscles, thermoregulatory cardiac regulation, heat-loss regulation through cutaneous vasomotion, and ACTH release. To defend thermal homeostasis from environmental thermal challenges, feedforward thermosensory information on environmental temperature sensed by skin thermoreceptors ascends through the spinal cord and lateral parabrachial nucleus to the preoptic area (POA). The POA also receives feedback signals from local thermosensitive neurons, as well as pyrogenic signals of prostaglandin E(2) produced in response to infection. These afferent signals are integrated and affect the activity of GABAergic inhibitory projection neurons descending from the POA to the dorsomedial hypothalamus (DMH) or to the rostral medullary raphe region (rMR). Attenuation of the descending inhibition by cooling or pyrogenic signals leads to disinhibition of thermogenic neurons in the DMH and sympathetic and somatic premotor neurons in the rMR, which then drive spinal motor output mechanisms to elicit thermogenesis, tachycardia, and cutaneous vasoconstriction. Warming signals enhance the descending inhibition from the POA to inhibit the motor outputs, resulting in cutaneous vasodilation and inhibited thermogenesis. This central thermoregulatory mechanism also functions for metabolic regulation and stress-induced hyperthermia.

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