The sympathetic nervous system (SNS) plays a critical role in the regulation of mammalian thermogenic responses to cold exposure and dietary intake. Catecholamine-stimulated thermogenesis is mediated by the beta-adrenergic receptor. In the rat brown adipose tissue is the major site of metabolic heat production in response to both cold (nonshivering thermogenesis) and diet (diet-induced thermogenesis). Measurements of norepinephrine turnover rate in interscapular brown adipose tissue of the rat demonstrate increased sympathetic activity in response to both cold exposure and overfeeding. In adult humans, a physiologically significant role for brown adipose tissue has not been established but cannot be excluded. It appears likely that dietary changes in SNS activity are related, at least in part, to the changes in metabolic rate that occur in association with changes in dietary intake.