Heat Stress Responses in Birds: A Review of the Neural Components

Biology (Basel). 2021 Oct 25;10(11):1095. doi: 10.3390/biology10111095.


Heat stress is one of the major environmental conditions causing significant losses in the poultry industry and having negative impacts on the world's food economy. Heat exposure causes several physiological impairments in birds, including oxidative stress, weight loss, immunosuppression, and dysregulated metabolism. Collectively, these lead not only to decreased production in the meat industry, but also decreases in the number of eggs laid by 20%, and overall loss due to mortality during housing and transit. Mitigation techniques have been discussed in depth, and include changes in air flow and dietary composition, improved building insulation, use of air cooling in livestock buildings (fogging systems, evaporation panels), and genetic alterations. Most commonly observed during heat exposure are reduced food intake and an increase in the stress response. However, very little has been explored regarding heat exposure, food intake and stress, and how the neural circuitry responsible for sensing temperatures mediate these responses. That thermoregulation, food intake, and the stress response are primarily mediated by the hypothalamus make it reasonable to assume that it is the central hub at which these systems interact and coordinately regulate downstream changes in metabolism. Thus, this review discusses the neural circuitry in birds associated with thermoregulation, food intake, and stress response at the level of the hypothalamus, with a focus on how these systems might interact in the presence of heat exposure.

Keywords: birds; corticotropin-releasing factor; food intake; heat stress; hypothalamus; stress; thyroid hormones.

Publication types

  • Review