A forebrain neural substrate for behavioral thermoregulation

Neuron. 2022 Jan 19;110(2):266-279.e9. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2021.09.039. Epub 2021 Oct 22.


Thermoregulatory behavior is a basic motivated behavior for body temperature homeostasis. Despite its fundamental importance, a forebrain region or defined neural population required for this process has yet to be established. Here, we show that Vgat-expressing neurons in the lateral hypothalamus (LHVgat neurons) are required for diverse thermoregulatory behaviors. The population activity of LHVgat neurons is increased during thermoregulatory behavior and bidirectionally encodes thermal punishment and reward (P&R). Although this population also regulates feeding and caloric reward, inhibition of parabrachial inputs selectively impaired thermoregulatory behaviors and encoding of thermal stimulus by LHVgat neurons. Furthermore, two-photon calcium imaging revealed a subpopulation of LHVgat neurons bidirectionally encoding thermal P&R, which is engaged during thermoregulatory behavior, but is largely distinct from caloric reward-encoding LHVgat neurons. Our data establish LHVgat neurons as a required neural substrate for behavioral thermoregulation and point to the key role of the thermal P&R-encoding LHVgat subpopulation in thermoregulatory behavior.

Keywords: behavioral thermoregulation; lateral hypothalamus; motivated behavior; parabrachial nucleus; reward and punishment; thermal homeostasis; thermal reward; thermoregulatory behavior; two-photon calcium imaging; vesicular GABA transporter.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Body Temperature Regulation
  • Hypothalamic Area, Lateral* / physiology
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Prosencephalon*
  • Reward