Cold-seeking behavior as a thermoregulatory strategy in systemic inflammation

Eur J Neurosci. 2006 Jun;23(12):3359-67. doi: 10.1111/j.1460-9568.2006.04854.x.


Systemic inflammation (SI) is a leading cause of hospital death. Although fever and hypothermia are listed as symptoms in every definition of SI, how SI affects thermoregulatory behavior is unclear. SI is often modeled by systemic administration of bacterial lipopolysaccharide (LPS) to rats. When rats are not allowed to regulate their body temperature (Tb) behaviorally, LPS causes either fever or hypothermia, and the direction of the response is determined by LPS dose and ambient temperature (Ta). However, in many studies in which rats were allowed to regulate Tb behaviorally (by selecting their preferred Ta in a thermogradient apparatus), they consistently expressed warmth-seeking behavior and developed fever. We hypothesized that SI can cause not only warmth-seeking behavior but also cold-seeking behavior; we then tested this hypothesis by studying LPS-induced thermoregulatory behavior in adult Wistar rats. A multichannel thermogradient apparatus, implantable data loggers and infrared thermography were used; multiple control experiments were conducted; and the ability of the apparatus to reliably register the changes in rats' preferred Ta induced by thermal (external cooling or heating) or chemical (TRPV1 or TRPM8 agonist) stimuli was confirmed. The rats responded to a low dose of LPS (10 microg/kg i.v.) with warmth-seeking behavior and a polyphasic fever, but to a high dose (5 mg/kg i.v.) with marked cold-seeking behavior and hypothermia followed by warmth-seeking behavior and fever. This is the first well-controlled study to report SI-associated cold-seeking behavior in rats. Cold-seeking behavior is likely to be an important defense response in severe SI.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Body Temperature / drug effects
  • Body Temperature Regulation / drug effects
  • Body Temperature Regulation / physiology*
  • Cold Temperature*
  • Fever
  • Humans
  • Hypothermia
  • Inflammation / physiopathology*
  • Lipopolysaccharides / administration & dosage
  • Lipopolysaccharides / immunology
  • Lipopolysaccharides / pharmacology
  • Male
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Temperature*


  • Lipopolysaccharides