A new heating unit (servocontrolled skin temperature derivative system) has been designed to control the thermal environment in closed incubators. This type of control acts to attain and closely maintain a thermal equilibrium between a neonate's skin temperature and the environment. The present study aims to discover if thermal equilibrium is located within a thermoneutral range defined from oxygen consumption VO2 and body temperature, and whether it is more appropriate to define an optimal thermal environment. As regards VO2 and body temperature, results show that the air temperature reached at thermal equilibrium fulfils the definition of thermoneutrality. According to these criteria, a small decrease (1:5 degrees C) from thermal equilibrium also provides a near thermoneutral environment to the neonate but induces sleep disturbances and an increase in body movements. These two additional parameters delineate a narrower thermoneutral zone than does minimal metabolic rate because VO2 can stay constant even when air and body temperatures decrease. The results suggest that thermal equilibrium might be assimilated with a thermal comfort zone.