Medical Definition of Thermostat

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Reviewed on 12/11/2018

Thermostat: A device that monitors temperature and automatically maintains it at certain levels. In a human, a tiny part of the brain called the hypothalamus, located behind the eyes, serves as the thermostat. It can warm the body by causing it to shiver and cool the body by causing it to perspire. The hypothalamus also regulates hunger, thirst, sex drive and other body activities.

"Thermostat" is derived from the Greek "therme" (heat) and "statos" (standing, stationary). Other words formed from "therme" include "thermometer" (a device for measuring temperature) and "thermotherapy" (the use of heat to treat disease).

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Reviewed on 12/11/2018