2010 Carl Ludwig distinguished lectureship of the APS neural control and autonomic regulation section: Central neural pathways for thermoregulatory cold defense

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

78 Scopus citations


Central neural circuits orchestrate the homeostatic repertoire to maintain body temperature during environmental temperature challenges and to alter body temperature during the inflammatory response. This review summarizes the research leading to a model representing our current understanding of the neural pathways through which cutaneous thermal receptors alter thermoregulatory effectors: the cutaneous circulation for control of heat loss, and brown adipose tissue, skeletal muscle, and the heart for thermogenesis. The activation of these effectors is regulated by parallel but distinct, effector-specific core efferent pathways within the central nervous system (CNS) that share a common peripheral thermal sensory input. The thermal afferent circuit from cutaneous thermal receptors includes neurons in the spinal dorsal horn projecting to lateral parabrachial nucleus neurons that project to the medial aspect of the preoptic area. Within the preoptic area, warm-sensitive, inhibitory output neurons control heat production by reducing the discharge of thermogenesispromoting neurons in the dorsomedial hypothalamus. The rostral ventromedial medulla, including the raphe pallidus, receives projections form the dorsomedial hypothalamus and contains spinally projecting premotor neurons that provide the excitatory drive to spinal circuits controlling the activity of thermogenic effectors. A distinct population of warm-sensitive preoptic neurons controls heat loss through an inhibitory input to raphe pallidus sympathetic premotor neurons controlling cutaneous vasoconstriction. The model proposed for central thermoregulatory control provides a platform for further understanding of the functional organization of central thermoregulation.



  • Brown adipose tissue
  • Cutaneous vasoconstriction
  • Homeostasis
  • Shivering
  • Sympathetic nervous system
  • Thermogenesis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)

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