Control of cutaneous blood flow by central nervous system

Youichirou Ootsuka, Mutsumi Tanaka

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

    54 Citations (Scopus)


    Hairless skin acts as a heat exchanger between body and environment, and thus greatly contributes to body temperature regulation by changing blood flow to the skin (cutaneous) vascular bed during physiological responses such as cold- or warm-defense and fever. Cutaneous blood flow is also affected by alerting state; we ‘go pale with fright’. The rabbit ear pinna and the rat tail have hairless skin, and thus provide animal models for investigating central pathway regulating blood flow to cutaneous vascular beds. Cutaneous blood flow is controlled by the centrally regulated sympathetic nervous system. Sympathetic premotor neurons in the medullary raphé in the lower brain stem are labeled at early stage after injection of trans-synaptic viral tracer into skin wall of the rat tail. Inactivation of these neurons abolishes cutaneous vasomotor changes evoked as part of thermoregulatory, febrile or psychological responses, indicating that the medullary raphé is a common final pathway to cutaneous sympathetic outflow, receiving neural inputs from upstream nuclei such as the preoptic area, hypothalamic nuclei and the midbrain. Summarizing evidences from rats and rabbits studies in the last 2 decades, we will review our current understanding of the central pathways mediating cutaneous vasomotor control.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)392-405
    Number of pages14
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 3 Jul 2015


    • cutaneous vasoconstriction
    • medullary raphé
    • preoptic area
    • psychological hyperthermia
    • sympathetic nervous system


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