Brain temperature and hippocampal function

Hippocampus. 1995;5(6):491-8. doi: 10.1002/hipo.450050602.


Even though homeothermic animals regulate the body temperature, fluctuations up to 2-3 degrees C may occur during physiological conditions. In many species, including the rat, a similar variation can be measured in the brain temperature. Such changes are expressed throughout the brain with a preserved gradient between the warmer basal and cooler dorsal parts. In spite of these recordable physiological changes, spatial learning is quite robust, in that it occurs at brain temperatures between 30 and 39 degrees C. Even drastic cooling (to below 15 degrees C) fails to affect consolidation or storage of information when the animal is tested after rewarming. The physiological temperature fluctuations have significant consequences for electrophysiological responses in the brain. Various bioelectrical signals are more sensitive during warming, axonal conduction is speeded up, and stimulus-elicited transmitter release becomes faster and more synchronized. Action potentials have shorter rise and decay times in warm conditions, and the amplitude becomes slightly smaller. Population responses are differently affected by these changes. Dentate field potentials in response to stimulation of perforant-path fibers appear with shorter latency in warm conditions, and the rate of rise in the field EPSP is increased. Paradoxically, the amplitude of the population spike is reduced. This is due to a combination of reduced amplitude of individual action potentials and reduced efficiency of the summation of groups of action potentials. Due to the large effects of temperature on hippocampal field potentials, it is mandatory that brain temperature changes are monitored and/or controlled whenever such responses are recorded in freely moving and anesthetized animals.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology
  • Animals
  • Body Temperature Regulation / physiology*
  • Evoked Potentials / physiology
  • Hippocampus / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Synaptic Transmission / physiology