Central neural control of thermoregulation and brown adipose tissue

Auton Neurosci. 2016 Apr;196:14-24. doi: 10.1016/j.autneu.2016.02.010. Epub 2016 Feb 23.


Central neural circuits orchestrate the homeostatic repertoire that maintains body temperature during environmental temperature challenges and alters body temperature during the inflammatory response. This review summarizes the experimental underpinnings of our current model of the CNS pathways controlling the principal thermoeffectors for body temperature regulation: cutaneous vasoconstriction controlling heat loss, and shivering and brown adipose tissue for thermogenesis. The activation of these effectors is regulated by parallel but distinct, effector-specific, core efferent pathways within the CNS that share a common peripheral thermal sensory input. Via the lateral parabrachial nucleus, skin thermal afferent input reaches the hypothalamic preoptic area to inhibit warm-sensitive, inhibitory output neurons which control heat production by inhibiting thermogenesis-promoting neurons in the dorsomedial hypothalamus that project to thermogenesis-controlling premotor neurons in the rostral ventromedial medulla, including the raphe pallidus, that descend to provide the excitation of spinal circuits necessary to drive thermogenic thermal effectors. A distinct population of warm-sensitive preoptic neurons controls heat loss through an inhibitory input to raphe pallidus sympathetic premotor neurons controlling cutaneous vasoconstriction. The model proposed for central thermoregulatory control provides a useful platform for further understanding of the functional organization of central thermoregulation and elucidating the hypothalamic circuitry and neurotransmitters involved in body temperature regulation.

Keywords: Brown adipose tissue; Cutaneous vasoconstriction; Dorsomedial hypothalamus; Fever; Preoptic hypothalamus; Rostral raphe pallidus; Shiver; Sympathetic nerve activity; Thermogenesis.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue, Brown / metabolism*
  • Adipose Tissue, Brown / physiology
  • Animals
  • Body Temperature / physiology*
  • Body Temperature Regulation / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Neural Pathways / physiology*
  • Sympathetic Nervous System / physiology*
  • Thermogenesis / physiology*