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Recent Advances In Thermoregulation

Etain A. Tansey, Christopher D. Johnson

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Thermoregulation is the maintenance of a relatively constant core body temperature. Humans normally maintain a body temperature at 37°C, and maintenance of this relatively high temperature is critical to human survival. This concept is so important that control of thermoregulation is often the principal example cited when teaching physiological homeostasis. A basic understanding of the processes underpinning temperature regulation is necessary for all undergraduate students studying biology and biology-related disciplines, and a thorough understanding is necessary for those students in clinical training. Our aim in this review is to broadly present the thermoregulatory process taking into account current advances in this area. First, we summarize the basic concepts of thermoregulation and subsequently assess the physiological responses to heat and cold stress, including vasodilation and vasoconstriction, sweating, nonshivering thermogenesis, piloerection, shivering, and altered behavior. Current research is presented concerning the body's detection of thermal challenge, peripheral and central thermoregulatory control mechanisms, including brown adipose tissue in adult humans and temperature transduction by the relatively recently discovered transient receptor potential channels. Finally, we present an updated understanding of the neuroanatomic circuitry supporting thermoregulation.