Thermoreceptors and thermosensitive afferents

Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2010 Feb;34(2):177-84. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2009.10.003. Epub 2009 Oct 12.


Cutaneous thermosensation plays an important role in thermal regulation and detection of potentially harmful thermal stimuli. Multiple classes of primary afferents are responsive to thermal stimuli. Afferent nerve fibers mediating the sensation of non-painful warmth or cold seem adapted to convey thermal information over a particular temperature range. In contrast, nociceptive afferents are often activated by both, painful cold and heat stimuli. The transduction mechanisms engaged by thermal stimuli have only recently been discovered. Transient receptor potential (TRP) ion channels that can be activated by temperatures over specific ranges potentially provide the molecular basis for thermosensation. However, non-TRP mechanisms are also likely to contribute to the transduction of thermal stimuli. This review summarizes findings regarding the transduction proteins and the primary afferents activated by innocuous and noxious cold and heat.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Neurons, Afferent / physiology*
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*
  • Temperature
  • Thermoreceptors / physiology*
  • Thermosensing / physiology*
  • Transient Receptor Potential Channels / physiology


  • Transient Receptor Potential Channels