Laboratory rats alternate between behaviorally active and inactive states every 1-2. h throughout the 24. hour day, the ultradian basic rest-activity cycle (BRAC). During the behaviorally active phases of the BRAC, brown adipose tissue (BAT) temperature, body and brain temperature, and arterial pressure and heart rate increase in an integrated manner. Since the BAT temperature increases are substantially greater than the corresponding body and brain temperature increases, BAT thermogenesis contributes to the body and brain temperature increases. When food is available ad libitum, eating commences approximately 15. min after the onset of an episodic increase in BAT temperature, and not at other times. If no food is available, the rat still disturbs the empty food container approximately 15. min after the onset of an episodic increase in BAT temperature, and not at other times. The increase in brain temperature that precedes eating may facilitate the cognitive processing that occurs during the search for food, when the rat engages with the external environment. Rather than being triggered by changes in levels of body fuels or other meal-associated factors, in sedentary laboratory rats with ad libitum access to food, meal initiation normally occurs as part of the centrally-programmed ultradian BRAC. BRAC-associated BAT temperature increases occur in a thermoneutral environment and they are not preceded by falls in body or brain temperature, so they are not homeostatic thermoregulatory responses. The pattern of integrated behaviors and physiological functions associated with the BRAC presumably reflects Darwinian natural selection, and homeostatic thermoregulatory explanations of the BRAC-associated changes in temperature should be considered in this context.
- Arterial pressure, heart rate
- Body temperature
- Brain temperature
- Central command
- Darwinian natural selection