Role of the preoptic-anterior hypothalamus in thermoregulation and fever

Clin Infect Dis. 2000 Oct;31 Suppl 5:S157-61. doi: 10.1086/317521.


Lesion and thermal stimulation studies suggest that temperature regulation is controlled by a hierarchy of neural structures. Effector areas for specific thermoregulatory responses are located throughout the brain stem and spinal cord. The preoptic region, in and near the rostral hypothalamus, acts as a coordinating center and strongly influences each of the lower effector areas. The preoptic area contains neurons that are sensitive to subtle changes in hypothalamic or core temperature. Preoptic thermosensitive neurons also receive a wealth of somatosensory input from skin and spinal thermoreceptors. In this way, preoptic neurons compare and integrate central and peripheral thermal information. As a result of this sensory integration and its control over lower effector areas, the preoptic region elicits the thermoregulatory responses that are the most appropriate for both internal and environmental thermal conditions. Thermosensitive preoptic neurons are also affected by endogenous substances, such as pyrogens. By reducing the activity of warm-sensitive neurons and increasing the activity of cold-sensitive neurons, pyrogens cause fever, a state in which all thermoregulatory responses have elevated set-point temperatures.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Body Temperature Regulation / physiology*
  • Fever / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Hypothalamus, Anterior / physiology*
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Preoptic Area / physiology*