Orderly recruitment of thermoeffectors in resting humans.

Research paper by Zachary J ZJ Schlader, James R JR Sackett, Suman S Sarker, Blair D BD Johnson

Indexed on: 13 Oct '17Published on: 13 Oct '17Published in: American journal of physiology. Regulatory, integrative and comparative physiology


The recruitment of thermoeffectors, including thermoregulatory behavior, relative to changes in body temperature has not been quantified in humans. We tested the hypothesis that changes in skin blood flow, behavior, and sweating or metabolic rate are initiated with increasing changes in mean skin temperature (Tskin) in resting humans. While wearing a water perfused suit, twelve healthy young adults underwent heat (HEAT) and cold (COLD) stress that induced gradual changes in Tskin Subjects controlled the temperature of their dorsal neck to their perceived thermal comfort. Thus, neck skin temperature provided an index of thermoregulatory behavior. Neck skin temperature, Tskin, core temperature (Tcore), metabolic rate, sweat rate, and non-glabrous skin blood flow were measured continually. Data were analyzed using segmental regression analysis, providing an index of thermoeffector activation relative to changes in Tskin In HEAT, increases in skin blood flow were observed with the smallest elevations in Tskin (P<0.01). Thermal behavior was initiated with an increase in Tskin of 2.4 ± 1.3°C (P=0.04), while sweating was observed with further elevations in Tskin (3.4 ± 0.5°C, P=0.04), which coincided with increases in Tcore (P=0.98). In COLD, reductions in skin blood flow occurred with the smallest decrease in Tskin (P<0.01). Thermal behavior was initiated with a Tskin decrease of 1.5 ± 1.3°C, while metabolic rate (P=0.10) and Tcore (P=0.76) did not change throughout. These data indicate that autonomic and behavioral thermoeffectors are recruited in coordination with one another and likely in an orderly manner relative to the comparative physiological cost.