Central neural pathways for thermoregulation

Front Biosci (Landmark Ed). 2011 Jan 1;16:74-104. doi: 10.2741/3677.


Central neural circuits orchestrate a homeostatic repertoire to maintain body temperature during environmental temperature challenges and to alter body temperature during the inflammatory response. This review summarizes the functional organization of the neural pathways through which cutaneous thermal receptors alter thermoregulatory effectors: the cutaneous circulation for heat loss, the brown adipose tissue, skeletal muscle and heart for thermogenesis and species-dependent mechanisms (sweating, panting and saliva spreading) for evaporative heat loss. These effectors are regulated by parallel but distinct, effector-specific neural pathways that share a common peripheral thermal sensory input. The thermal afferent circuits include cutaneous thermal receptors, spinal dorsal horn neurons and lateral parabrachial nucleus neurons projecting to the preoptic area to influence warm-sensitive, inhibitory output neurons which control thermogenesis-promoting neurons in the dorsomedial hypothalamus that project to premotor neurons in the rostral ventromedial medulla, including the raphe pallidus, that descend to provide the excitation necessary to drive thermogenic thermal effectors. A distinct population of warm-sensitive preoptic neurons controls heat loss through an inhibitory input to raphe pallidus neurons controlling cutaneous vasoconstriction.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue, Brown / physiology
  • Afferent Pathways / physiology
  • Animals
  • Body Temperature Regulation / physiology*
  • Dinoprostone / physiology
  • Fever / chemically induced
  • Heart / physiology
  • Hypothalamus / physiology
  • Medulla Oblongata / physiopathology
  • Neural Pathways / physiology*
  • Pons / physiology
  • Posterior Horn Cells / physiology
  • Preoptic Area / physiology
  • Shivering / physiology
  • Skin Temperature / physiology
  • Sympathetic Nervous System / physiology
  • Thermogenesis / physiology
  • Vasoconstriction / physiology


  • Dinoprostone