Energetic responses to cold temperatures in rats lacking forebrain-caudal brain stem connections

Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2008 Sep;295(3):R789-98. doi: 10.1152/ajpregu.90394.2008. Epub 2008 Jul 16.


Hypothalamic neurons are regarded as essential for integrating thermal afferent information from skin and core and issuing commands to autonomic and behavioral effectors that maintain core temperature (T(c)) during cold exposure and for the control of energy expenditure more generally. Caudal brain stem neurons are necessary elements of the hypothalamic effector pathway and also are directly driven by skin and brain cooling. To assess whether caudal brain stem processing of thermal afferent signals is sufficient to drive endemic effectors for thermogenesis, heart rate (HR), T(c), and activity responses of chronic decerebrate (CD) and control rats adapted to 23 degrees C were compared during cold exposure (4, 8, or 12 degrees C) for 6 h. Other CDs and controls were exposed to 4 or 23 degrees C for 2 h, and tissues were processed for norepinephrine turnover (NETO), a neurochemical measure of sympathetic drive. Controls maintained T(c) for all temperatures. CDs maintained T(c) for the 8 and 12 degrees C exposures, but T(c) declined 2 degrees C during the 4 degrees C exposure. Cold exposure elevated HR in CDs and controls alike. Tachycardia magnitude correlated with decreases in environmental temperature for controls, but not CDs. Cold increased NETO in brown adipose tissue, heart, and some white adipose tissue pads in CDs and controls compared with their respective room temperature controls. These data demonstrate that, in neural isolation from the hypothalamus, cold exposure drives caudal brain stem neuronal activity and engages local effectors that trigger sympathetic energetic and cardiac responses that are comparable in many, but not in all, respects to those seen in neurologically intact rats.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue, Brown / physiology
  • Adipose Tissue, White / physiology
  • Animals
  • Body Temperature / physiology
  • Body Temperature Regulation / physiology*
  • Brain Stem / cytology
  • Brain Stem / physiology*
  • Chronic Disease
  • Cold Temperature*
  • Decerebrate State / physiopathology*
  • Denervation
  • Energy Metabolism / physiology*
  • Heart Rate / physiology
  • Hypothalamus, Anterior / cytology
  • Hypothalamus, Anterior / physiology*
  • Male
  • Neural Pathways
  • Norepinephrine / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Sympathetic Nervous System / physiology


  • Norepinephrine