The body temperature of homeothermic animals is regulated by systems that utilize multiple behavioral and autonomic effector responses. In the last few years, new approaches have brought us new information and new ideas about neuronal interconnections in the thermoregulatory network. Studies utilizing chemical stimulation of the preoptic area revealed both heat loss and production responses are controlled by warm-sensitive neurons. These neurons send excitatory efferent signals for the heat loss and inhibitory efferent signals for the heat production. The warm-sensitive neurons are separated and work independently to control these two opposing responses. Recent electrophysiological analysis have identified some neurons sending axons directly to the spinal cord for thermoregulatory effector control. Included are midbrain reticulospinal neurons for shivering and premotor neurons in the medulla oblongata for skin vasomotor control. As for the afferent side of the thermoregulatory network, the vagus nerve is recently paid much attention, which would convey signals for peripheral infection to the brain and be responsible for the induction of fever. The vagus nerve may also participate in thermoregulation in afebrile conditions, because some substances such as cholecyctokinin and leptin activate the vagus nerve. Although the functional role for this response is still obscure, the vagus may transfer nutritional and/or metabolic signals to the brain, affecting metabolism and body temperature. Copyright (C) 2000 Elsevier Science B.V.
ASJC Scopus subject areas