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Front Neurosci. 2014 Feb 7;8:14. doi: 10.3389/fnins.2014.00014. eCollection 2014.

Autonomic regulation of brown adipose tissue thermogenesis in health and disease: potential clinical applications for altering BAT thermogenesis.

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Department of Neurological Surgery, Oregon Health and Science University Portland, OR, USA.


From mouse to man, brown adipose tissue (BAT) is a significant source of thermogenesis contributing to the maintenance of the body temperature homeostasis during the challenge of low environmental temperature. In rodents, BAT thermogenesis also contributes to the febrile increase in core temperature during the immune response. BAT sympathetic nerve activity controlling BAT thermogenesis is regulated by CNS neural networks which respond reflexively to thermal afferent signals from cutaneous and body core thermoreceptors, as well as to alterations in the discharge of central neurons with intrinsic thermosensitivity. Superimposed on the core thermoregulatory circuit for the activation of BAT thermogenesis, is the permissive, modulatory influence of central neural networks controlling metabolic aspects of energy homeostasis. The recent confirmation of the presence of BAT in human and its function as an energy consuming organ have stimulated interest in the potential for the pharmacological activation of BAT to reduce adiposity in the obese. In contrast, the inhibition of BAT thermogenesis could facilitate the induction of therapeutic hypothermia for fever reduction or to improve outcomes in stroke or cardiac ischemia by reducing infarct size through a lowering of metabolic oxygen demand. This review summarizes the central circuits for the autonomic control of BAT thermogenesis and highlights the potential clinical relevance of the pharmacological inhibition or activation of BAT thermogenesis.


adenosine; brown adipose tissue; fever; hibernation; hypothermia; obesity; therapeutic hypothermia; torpor

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