Frontiers in Bioscience-Landmark (FBL) is published by IMR Press from Volume 26 Issue 5 (2021). Previous articles were published by another publisher on a subscription basis, and they are hosted by IMR Press on imrpress.com as a courtesy and upon agreement with Frontiers in Bioscience.
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 warm-sensitive preoptic neurons controls heat loss through an inhibitory input to raphe pallidus neurons controlling cutaneous vasoconstriction.