Scientists at Oregon Health & Science University's Neurological Sciences Institute have discovered a body system that determines when a person starts shivering.
The researchers have found a sensory mechanism, which takes temperature information from the skin and determines when a person should start shivering.
Kazuhiro Nakamura, Ph.D., an OHSU Fellow for Research Abroad from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science said that the study shows the sensory pathway for shivering, which can be thought of as brain wiring.
"One fascinating aspect of this study is that it shows the sensory pathway for shivering, which can be thought of as brain wiring, is parallel to but not the same as the sensory pathway for conscious cold detection," Nature quoted him as saying.
"In other words, your body is both consciously and subconsciously detecting the cold at the same time using two different but related sensory systems," he added.
Nakamura said that shivering is the last strategy the body uses to maintain its internal temperature to survive in a severe cold environment
"Shivering, which is actually heat production in skeletal muscles, requires quite a bit of energy and is usually the last strategy the body uses to maintain its internal temperature to survive in a severe cold environment.
"Other strategies to defend against the cold, such as reducing heat loss to the environment by restricting blood flow to the skin, also appear to be controlled by the sensory mechanism that we found," he further added.
The study conducted on rats discovered a sensory pathway from the skin to specialized cells in a portion of the brain called the lateral parabrachial nucleus that transmitted information to another part of the brain called the preoptic area, which decided when the body should start shivering.
Shivering is an automatic and subconscious regulatory function regulated by brain.
Other regulatory functions include the adjustment of breathing rates, blood pressure, heart rate and weight regulation.
The researchers feel that the research would further the knowledge about one of the many functions that our brains are constantly monitoring, responding to and adjusting to keep us alive and healthy.
However, there are conditions like hypothermia and hyperthermia where thermal sensory pathways come into play and knowledge of the brain's wiring can provide important clues for locating dysfunction in patients with abnormal thermal sensation.
The report has been published in the advance online edition of the journal Nature Neuroscience.