Mechanisms and mediators of psychological stress-induced rise in core temperature

Takakazu Oka, Kae Oka, Tetsuro Hori

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

231 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: Despite numerous case reports on "psychogenic fever," it remains uncertain how psychological stress raises core temperature and whether the rise in core temperature is a real fever or a hyperthermia. This article reviews studies on the psychological stress-induced rise in core temperature (PSRCT) in animals with the aim to facilitate studies on the mechanisms of so-called psychogenic fever in humans. Methods: To address this question, we reviewed the mechanisms and mediators of the PSRCT and classic conditioning of the fever response in animals. Results: The PSRCT is not due to the increased locomotor activity during stress, and the magnitude of the PSRCT is the same in warm and cold environments, indicating that it is a centrally regulated rise in temperature due to an elevated thermoregulatory "set point." The PSRCT caused by conventional psychological stress models, such as open-field stress, is attenuated by cyclooxygenase inhibitors, which block prostaglandin synthesis. On the other hand, the PSRCT elicited by an "anticipatory anxiety stress" is not inhibited by cyclooxygenase inhibitors but by benzodiazepines and serotonin Type 1A receptor agonists. The febrile response can be conditioned to neutral stimuli after paired presentation with unconditioned stimuli such as injection of lipopolysaccharide, a typical pyrogen. Conclusions: Most findings indicate that the PSRCT is a fever, a rise in the thermoregulatory set point. The PSRCT may occur through prostaglandin E2-dependent mechanisms and prostaglandin E2-independent, 5-HT-mediated mechanisms. The febrile response can be conditioned. Thus, these mechanisms might be involved in psychogenic fever in humans.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)476-486
Number of pages11
JournalPsychosomatic Medicine
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Applied Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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