Thermoregulatory and thermal control in the human cutaneous circulation

Front Biosci (Schol Ed). 2010 Jun 1;2:825-53. doi: 10.2741/s105.


The past 10-15 years has been a time of focus on the mechanisms of control in the human cutaneous circulation. Methodological developments have provided powerful means for resolving the important contributors to the reflex control of skin blood flow (thermoregulatory control) and also for the equally impressive effects of direct heating and cooling of the skin (thermal control). This review is devoted largely to that recent literature. We treat the sympathetic vasoconstrictor system and its transmitters and modulatory factors and the sympathetic active vasodilator system and its abundant mysteries, with focus on the putative transmitters and cotransmitters, the involvement of nitric oxide and the relationship to sweating and modulatory factors. We also deal with the current understanding of the mechanisms of vasoconstriction and vasodilation that accompany direct skin cooling and heating, noting that adrenergic function, afferent nerve function and the nitric oxide system are involved in the vascular responses to both thermal stimuli.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Body Temperature Regulation / physiology*
  • Botulinum Toxins, Type A / pharmacology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Iontophoresis
  • Laser-Doppler Flowmetry
  • Male
  • Microdialysis
  • Neuropeptide Y / physiology
  • Nitric Oxide / physiology
  • Norepinephrine / physiology
  • Reflex / physiology
  • Skin / blood supply*
  • Skin / drug effects
  • Skin / innervation
  • Substance P / physiology
  • Sweating / physiology
  • Sympathetic Nervous System / drug effects
  • Sympathetic Nervous System / physiology
  • Vasoactive Intestinal Peptide / physiology
  • Vasoconstriction / drug effects
  • Vasoconstriction / physiology
  • Vasodilation / drug effects
  • Vasodilation / physiology


  • Neuropeptide Y
  • Nitric Oxide
  • Substance P
  • Vasoactive Intestinal Peptide
  • Botulinum Toxins, Type A
  • Norepinephrine