Temperature and neuronal circuit function: compensation, tuning and tolerance

Curr Opin Neurobiol. 2012 Aug;22(4):724-34. doi: 10.1016/j.conb.2012.01.008. Epub 2012 Feb 10.


Temperature has widespread and diverse effects on different subcellular components of neuronal circuits making it difficult to predict precisely the overall influence on output. Increases in temperature generally increase the output rate in either an exponential or a linear manner. Circuits with a slow output tend to respond exponentially with relatively high Q(10)s, whereas those with faster outputs tend to respond in a linear fashion with relatively low temperature coefficients. Different attributes of the circuit output can be compensated by virtue of opposing processes with similar temperature coefficients. At the extremes of the temperature range, differences in the temperature coefficients of circuit mechanisms cannot be compensated and the circuit fails, often with a reversible loss of ion homeostasis. Prior experience of temperature extremes activates conserved processes of phenotypic plasticity that tune neuronal circuits to be better able to withstand the effects of temperature and to recover more rapidly from failure.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Body Temperature Regulation / physiology*
  • Conditioning, Psychological
  • Humans
  • Nerve Net / physiology*
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Temperature*