Human thermoregulation: separating thermal and nonthermal effects on heat loss

Front Biosci (Landmark Ed). 2010 Jan 1;15:259-90. doi: 10.2741/3620.


Human thermoregulatory control during heat stress has been studied at rest, during exercise and more recently during exercise recovery. Heat balance in the body is maintained by changes in the rate of heat loss via adjustments in skin blood flow and sweating. Independent of thermal control, the actions of nonthermal factors have important consequences in the control of heat loss responses during and following exercise. While the effect of these nonthermal factors is largely considered to be an inhibitory or excitatory stimulus which displaces the set-point about which temperature is regulated, their effects on human thermoregulatory control are far reaching. Many factors can affect the relative contribution of thermal and nonthermal influences to heat balance including exercise intensity, hemodynamic status, and the level of hyperthermia imposed. This review will characterize the physiological responses associated with heat stress and discuss the thermal and nonthermal influences on sweating and skin blood flow in humans. Further, recent calorimetric evidence for the understanding of thermal and nonthermal contributions to human heat balance will also be discussed.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Body Temperature / physiology*
  • Body Temperature Regulation / physiology*
  • Energy Metabolism
  • Exercise
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological
  • Pressoreceptors / physiology
  • Skin / blood supply
  • Skin / metabolism
  • Sweating / physiology