Central neural pathways for thermoregulation

Shaun F. Morrison, Kazuhiro Nakamura

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

451 Scopus citations


Central neural circuits orchestrate a homeostatic repertoire to maintain body temperature during environmental temperature challenges and to alter body temperature during the inflammatory response. This review summarizes the functional organization of the neural pathways through which cutaneous thermal receptors alter thermoregulatory effectors: the cutaneous circulation for heat loss, the brown adipose tissue, skeletal muscle and heart for thermogenesis and species-dependent mechanisms (sweating, panting and saliva spreading) for evaporative heat loss. These effectors are regulated by parallel but distinct, effector-specific neural pathways that share a common peripheral thermal sensory input. The thermal afferent circuits include cutaneous thermal receptors, spinal dorsal horn neurons and lateral parabrachial nucleus neurons projecting to the preoptic area to influence warm-sensitive, inhibitory output neurons which control thermogenesis-promoting neurons in the dorsomedial hypothalamus that project to premotor neurons in the rostral ventromedial medulla, including the raphe pallidus, that descend to provide the excitation necessary to drive thermogenic thermal effectors. A distinct population of warmsensitive preoptic neurons controls heat loss through an inhibitory input to raphe pallidus neurons controlling cutaneous vasoconstriction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)74-104
Number of pages31
JournalFrontiers in Bioscience
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2011


  • Brown adipose tissue
  • Cutaneous vasoconstriction
  • Homeostasis
  • Mammal
  • Physiology
  • Review
  • Shivering
  • Temperature Regulation
  • Thermogenesis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Immunology and Microbiology


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