Neuronal activity changes of ventromedial hypothalamic neurons and associated temperature responses in rats following scrotal thermal stimulation.
Experiments were conducted to determine whether ventromedial hypothalamic (VMH) neurons were responsive to thermal warming or cooling of the scrotum. Extracellular neuronal activity of VMH neurons was monitored in anesthetized groups of normothermic (core temperature maintained at 37 degrees C) or hypothermic (core temperatures allowed to decrease, 33.3 +/- 1.1 degrees C) male, Sprague-Dawley rats along with colonic (Tc), interscapular brown adipose tissue (TIBAT), tail (Tt), and scrotal (Tsc) temperatures during 30-min periods of scrotal cooling (small ice peak) or scrotal warming (small sealed pack containing 40 degrees C tap water). In the normothermic group (65 VMH neurons recorded in total), 20 VMH neurons (31%) were classified as warm-responsive neurons (WRNs) (i.e., increased firing rate with scrotal warming and (or) decreased firing rates with scrotal cooling); 7 VMH neurons (11%) were classified as cold-responsive neurons (CRNs) (i.e., increased firing rate with scrotal cooling and (or) decreased firing rate with scrotal warming); and 38 VMH neurons (58%) were thermal nonresponsive neurons (TNRNs). In the hypothermic group (total of 85 VMH neurons recorded), 14 neurons (16%) were WRNs, 15 neurons (18%) were CRNs, and 56 neurons (66%) were TNRNs. Results indicated that VMH neurons can respond selectively to changes in scrotal temperature, as previously shown for preoptic-anterior hypothalamic neurons. Scrotal cooling and warming caused marked changes in T(sc) values in both the hypothermic and normothermic rats, but significant increases in TIBAT values indicative of brown adipose tissue thermogenesis did not occur.
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