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» Homeostasis



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  • Homeostasis
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  • Homeostasis is the state of steady internal conditions maintained by living things. This dynamic state of equilibrium is the condition of optimal functioning for the. The tendency to maintain a stable, relatively constant internal environment is called homeostasis. The body maintains homeostasis for many factors in addition . Homeostasis, any self-regulating process by which biological systems tend to maintain stability while adjusting to conditions that are optimal for survival.

    » Homeostasis

    In other cases, the presence of negative feedback may minimize oscillation of a variable, even though that variable itself is not maintained relatively constant i. Control of the blood levels of cortisol is an example of the oscillating damping effects of negative feedback see further discussion below. Feedforward or anticipatory control mechanisms permit the body to predict a change in the physiology of the organism and initiate a response that can reduce the movement of a regulated variable out of its normal range 7 , Thus, feedforward mechanisms may help minimize the effects of a perturbation and can help maintain homeostasis.

    For example, anticipatory increases in breathing frequency will reduce the time course of the response to exercise-induced hypoxia. Because of this, attempts have been made to broaden the definition of homeostasis to include a range of anticipatory mechanisms However, we have decided to limit our generic model of a homeostatic regulatory system Fig. We have done this because our model is intended to help faculty members teach and students learn the core concept of homeostasis in introductory physiology 12 , There are additional complex features found in feedback systems that are not included here because our intention is to first help students make sense of the foundational concept of homeostatic regulation.

    As situations are encountered where this basic model is no longer adequate to predict system behavior 7 , 23 , additional elements like feedforward mechanisms can be added to the model. Understanding the concept of a set point is central to understanding the function of a homeostatic mechanism.

    The set point in an engineering control system is easily defined and understood; it is the value of the regulated variable that the designer or operator of the system wants as the output of the system. The cruise control mechanism in an automobile is an example of a system with an easy to understand set point. The driver determines the desired speed for the car the set point. The regulatory mechanism uses available effectors the throttle actuators and a negative feedback system to hold the speed constant in the face of changes in terrain and wind conditions.

    In such a system, we can envision an electronic circuit located in the engine control module that compares the actual ground speed with the set speed programmed by the driver and uses the error signal to control the throttle actuator appropriately. In physiological systems, the set point is conceptually similar. However, one source of difficulty is that, in most cases, we do not know the molecular or cellular mechanisms that generate a signal of a particular magnitude.

    What is clear is that certain physiological systems behave as though there is a set point signal that is used to regulate a physiological variable Another challenge to our understanding of set points arises from the fact that set points are clearly changeable, either physiologically or as the result of a pathological change in the system The mechanisms that cause variations in a set point can operate temporarily, permanently, or cyclically.

    Physiologically, this can occur as a result of discrete physiological phenomena e. The observation that set points can be changed adds complexity to our understanding of homeostatic regulation and can lead to confusion about whether the measured change in a regulated variable results from a change in the physiological stimulus or from a changing set point In these cases, it is important to make such distinctions between a change in the stimulus and the modulation of the set point to arrive at an accurate picture of how a particular homeostatically regulated system operates.

    Changes in the control signals alter effector outputs and therefore change the regulated variable. The amplitude of these control signals vary when there is an error signal i. Textbook diagrams and narratives can blur the distinction between the effector and a response generated by the effector, making it difficult for students to build a correct mental model.

    This problem can occur if, when a visual representation of a homeostatic mechanism is presented see Fig. Comprehensive understanding of homeostatic mechanisms requires that we, and students, make clear distinctions between effectors and responses.

    Students may also be confused if only the change in the regulated variable is thought of as being the response of the effector. The change in the regulated variable is typically a consequence of changes in function caused by effectors that determine the value of the regulated variable. Under these circumstances, it would reasonable for students to conclude that the intermediary steps are, in some way, aspects of the effector rather than the effect of actions of the effectors.

    This practice may also reflect a lack of understanding of the difference between the regulated variable, e. A potential sticky point arises from the use of this phrase. How much change can occur to a regulated variable that is held relatively constant? Three points of clarification need to be made. By saying relatively constant, we mean that:. The second point is key to understanding the range over which regulated variables can change; homeostatic mechanisms operate to prevent a potentially lethal change in the internal environment.

    Indeed, as it is often used, relatively constant essentially serves as a surrogate phrase for within the range compatible with an organism's viability.

    For some regulated variables, the range is quite narrow e. For other variables, the range can be broad under some circumstances e. The factors that contribute to the normal range or, in our model, the set point, of a particular variable are undoubtedly complex and, in most cases, have not been elucidated.

    To identify specific variables that may be homeostatically regulated, the five critical components illustrated in the model shown in Fig. That is, a regulatory system for that variable must exist that contains the five critical components described in Fig. Based on this test, we have generated a partial list of the physiological variables that are homeostatically regulated Table 1.

    The list of widely recognized and clearly established regulated variables in humans includes a number of inorganic ions e. Homeostatically regulated variables typically found in undergraduate human physiology textbooks. This table includes commonly found components of control systems involved in physiological regulation i. This is not meant to be an exhaustive list but rather reflect the current understanding of homeostatically regulated variables that undergraduate physiology students should understand and be able to apply to problems e.

    A potential sticky point occurs when textbooks identify variables as homeostatically regulated even though the system involved does not have all of the required components.

    The proposition that certain metabolic waste products e. We are not suggesting that the levels of these substances are not kept relatively constant by steady-state processes in the body. Rather, the concentrations of these substances are not maintained by a system that meets the definition of a homeostatic mechanism listed above.

    The body does not possess a physiological sensor for detecting these substances in the ECF and therefore cannot homeostatically regulate the ECF concentration of these substances. Conversely, some mechanisms for controlling the level of a physiological variable include one component of the model e. For example, textbook diagrams illustrating control of blood cortisol levels show several negative feedback loops.

    This can cause students to think that cortisol is a regulated variable. However, the sensed variable s in this system is are the variables e. The result of the negative feedback loops involving adrenocorticotropic hormone and cortisol is a modulation of the release rate of the respective hormones. Therefore, corticotropin-releasing hormone, adrenocorticotropic hormone, and cortisol should not be considered homeostatically regulated variables.

    They are signaling elements controlling the effectors that determine the value of the regulated variable s. Another possible source of confusion about the identification of regulated variables arises when a physiological variable is regulated under one set of circumstances but behaves as a controlled variable under other circumstances.

    This often happens if a physiological variable plays a role in more than one function in the body. It is here that the concept of nested homeostasis or hierarchies of homeostats can be helpful. Carpenter 7 has pointed out that there are circumstances in which the maintenance of one regulated variable at its set point value is more important for continued viability of the organism than the simultaneous regulation of another variable.

    One example of this is provided by the value of P co 2 in the ECF. As a variable in the internal environment that affects cell viability, P co 2 meets all of the criteria for a homeostatically regulated variable. P co 2 in the ECF depends on the action of respiratory muscles that alter the rate and depth of ventilation. As such, P co 2 in the ECF is maintained within defined limits by a regulatory system that senses P co 2 and operates by negative feedback.

    However, as any student of acid-base physiology knows, P co 2 in the ECF is not maintained relatively constant during compensatory adjustments in the acid-base balance of the body. Is P co 2 a regulated variable or is it a controlled variable? Given the centrality of the concept of homeostasis 15 , 16 , one would expect that both instructional resources and instructors would provide a consistent model of the concept and apply this model to appropriate systems in which variables are sensed and maintained relatively constant.

    However, examination of undergraduate textbooks revealed that this is not the case The problems found include, but were not limited to, inconsistent language used to describe the phenomenon and incomplete or inadequate pictorial representations of the model.

    In addition, texts often define homeostasis early in the narrative but fail to reinforce application of the model when specific regulatory mechanisms are discussed Furthermore, our work focusing on developing a concept inventory for homeostatic regulation 12 , 13 revealed considerable confusion among faculty members regarding the concept. We think this confusion may stem, in part, from the level of faculty uncertainty about the concept and degree of complexity of homeostatic regulatory mechanisms.

    Our discussion of the sticky points associated with homeostasis is an attempt to suggest potential sources of this confusion and to indicate ways that instructors can work through these difficulties. How do we ameliorate this situation? We propose five strategies that will help in approaching the problem. Faculty members members should adopt a standard set of terms associated with the model. There is inconsistency within and among textbooks with respect to the names for critical components of the model.

    We propose the terminology shown in Table 2 to be used when discussing homeostatic regulatory mechanisms. A glossary of terms used in discussing the core concept of homeostasis. The components of a homeostatically regulated system Fig. A standard standard pictorial representation of the model should be adopted when initially explaining homeostasis, and it should be used to frame the discussion of the specific system being considered. Figure 1 shows such a diagram.

    The argument could be made that this diagram may be difficult for undergraduate students to understand. This may be the rationale for presenting the much-simplified diagrams found in most undergraduate texts However, because these simple diagrams do not explicitly include all components of a homeostatic regulatory system e.

    As a result, students may not recognize that an essential feature of homeostatic regulatory systems is minimizing an error signal. A simplified representation of the model that includes the critical components of the regulatory system is shown in Fig. Depending on the course content and level of the student, this model can be expanded to add more levels of complexity as are required.

    Simplified representation of a homeostatic regulatory system. Several components shown in Fig. The reader should refer to Table 1 to find correspondence between components of physiologically significant homeostatic regulatory systems and this simplified representation. Faculty members should introduce the concept of homeostatic regulation early in the course and continue to apply and hence reinforce the model as each new homeostatic system is encountered.

    It is important to continue to use the standard terminology and visual representation as recommended in the first and second points above. The major functions important in the maintenance of homeostasis are fluid and electrolyte balance, acid-base regulation, thermoregulation, and metabolic control. To maintain homeostasis, heat production and heat loss must be balanced. This is achieved by both the somatomotor and sympathetic systems.

    The obvious behavioral way of keeping warm or cool is by moving into a correct environment. The posture of the body is also used to balance…. Homeostasis major treatment In human disease: Homeostasis discoveries of Bernard In Claude Bernard body systems autonomic nervous system function In human nervous system: The autonomic nervous system In human nervous system: Temperature regulation In human nervous system: Emotion and behaviour blood function In blood: Functions of blood circulatory system In circulatory system: General features of circulation endocrine systems In human endocrine system: Maintenance of homeostasis excretory systems In excretion: Regulation of water and salt balance View More.

    External Websites Khan Academy - Homeostasis. Articles from Britannica Encyclopedias for elementary and high school students.

    Help us improve this article! Contact our editors with your feedback. You may find it helpful to search within the site to see how similar or related subjects are covered. Any text you add should be original, not copied from other sources.

    At the bottom of the article, feel free to list any sources that support your changes, so that we can fully understand their context. Internet URLs are the best. Thank You for Your Contribution! There was a problem with your submission. Please try again later. The overall effect is therefore that hydrogen ions are lost in the urine when the pH of the plasma falls. The concomitant rise in the plasma bicarbonate mops up the increased hydrogen ions caused by the fall in plasma pH and the resulting excess carbonic acid is disposed of in the lungs as carbon dioxide.

    This restores the normal ratio between bicarbonate and the partial pressure of carbon dioxide and therefore the plasma pH. The converse happens when a high plasma pH stimulates the kidneys to secrete hydrogen ions into the blood and to excrete bicarbonate into the urine.

    The hydrogen ions combine with the excess bicarbonate ions in the plasma, once again forming an excess of carbonic acid which can be exhaled, as carbon dioxide, in the lungs, keeping the plasma bicarbonate ion concentration, the partial pressure of carbon dioxide and, therefore, the plasma pH, constant.

    Cerebrospinal fluid CSF allows for regulation of the distribution of substances between cells of the brain, [59] and neuroendocrine factors, to which slight changes can cause problems or damage to the nervous system. For example, high glycine concentration disrupts temperature and blood pressure control, and high CSF pH causes dizziness and syncope. Inhibitory neurons in the central nervous system play a homeostatic role in the balance of neuronal activity between excitation and inhibition.

    Inhibitory neurons using GABA , make compensating changes in the neuronal networks preventing runaway levels of excitation. The neuroendocrine system is the mechanism by which the hypothalamus maintains homeostasis, regulating metabolism , reproduction, eating and drinking behaviour, energy utilization, osmolarity and blood pressure. The regulation of metabolism, is carried out by hypothalamic interconnections to other glands. Two other regulatory endocrine axes are the hypothalamic—pituitary—adrenal axis HPA axis and the hypothalamic—pituitary—thyroid axis HPT axis.

    The liver also has many regulatory functions of the metabolism. An important function is the production and control of bile acids. Too much bile acid can be toxic to cells and its synthesis can be inhibited by activation of FXR a nuclear receptor. At the cellular level, homeostasis is carried out by several mechanisms including transcriptional regulation that can alter the activity of genes in response to changes. The amount of energy taken in through nutrition needs to match the amount of energy used.

    To achieve energy homeostasis appetite is regulated by two hormones, grehlin and leptin. Grehlin stimulates hunger and the intake of food and leptin acts to signal satiety fullness. Many diseases are the result of a homeostatic failure. Almost any homeostatic component can malfunction either as a result of an inherited defect , an inborn error of metabolism , or an acquired disease.

    Some homeostatic mechanisms have inbuilt redundancies, which ensures that life is not immediately threatened if a component malfunctions; but sometimes a homeostatic malfunction can result in serious disease, which can be fatal if not treated. A well-known example of a homeostatic failure is shown in type 1 diabetes mellitus. Here blood sugar regulation is unable to function because the beta cells of the pancreatic islets are destroyed and cannot produce the necessary insulin.

    The blood sugar rises in a condition known as hyperglycemia. The abnormally high plasma ionized calcium concentrations cause conformational changes in many cell-surface proteins especially ion channels and hormone or neurotransmitter receptors [64] giving rise to lethargy, muscle weakness, anorexia, constipation and labile emotions.

    The body water homeostat can be compromised by the inability to secrete ADH in response to even the normal daily water losses via the exhaled air, the feces , and insensible sweating. On receiving a zero blood ADH signal, the kidneys produce huge unchanging volumes of very dilute urine, causing dehydration and death if not treated.

    As organisms age, the efficiency of their control systems becomes reduced. The inefficiencies gradually result in an unstable internal environment that increases the risk of illness, and leads to the physical changes associated with aging.

    Various chronic diseases are kept under control by homeostatic compensation, which masks a problem by compensating for it making up for it in another way. However, the compensating mechanisms eventually wear out or are disrupted by a new complicating factor such as the advent of a concurrent acute viral infection , which sends the body reeling through a new cascade of events. Such decompensation unmasks the underlying disease, worsening its symptoms. Common examples include decompensated heart failure , kidney failure , and liver failure.

    In the Gaia hypothesis , James Lovelock [66] stated that the entire mass of living matter on Earth or any planet with life functions as a vast homeostatic superorganism that actively modifies its planetary environment to produce the environmental conditions necessary for its own survival.

    In this view, the entire planet maintains several homeostasis the primary one being temperature homeostasis. Whether this sort of system is present on Earth is open to debate. However, some relatively simple homeostatic mechanisms are generally accepted. For example, it is sometimes claimed that when atmospheric carbon dioxide levels rise, certain plants may be able to grow better and thus act to remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

    However, warming has exacerbated droughts, making water the actual limiting factor on land. When sunlight is plentiful and the atmospheric temperature climbs, it has been claimed that the phytoplankton of the ocean surface waters, acting as global sunshine, and therefore heat sensors, may thrive and produce more dimethyl sulfide DMS.

    The DMS molecules act as cloud condensation nuclei , which produce more clouds, and thus increase the atmospheric albedo , and this feeds back to lower the temperature of the atmosphere. However, rising sea temperature has stratified the oceans, separating warm, sunlit waters from cool, nutrient-rich waters. Thus, nutrients have become the limiting factor, and plankton levels have actually fallen over the past 50 years, not risen.

    As scientists discover more about Earth, vast numbers of positive and negative feedback loops are being discovered, that, together, maintain a metastable condition, sometimes within a very broad range of environmental conditions. Predictive homeostasis is an anticipatory response to an expected challenge in the future, such as the stimulation of insulin secretion by gut hormones which enter the blood in response to a meal.

    An actuary may refer to risk homeostasis , where for example people who have anti-lock brakes have no better safety record than those without anti-lock brakes, because the former unconsciously compensate for the safer vehicle via less-safe driving habits. Previous to the innovation of anti-lock brakes, certain maneuvers involved minor skids, evoking fear and avoidance: Now the anti-lock system moves the boundary for such feedback, and behavior patterns expand into the no-longer punitive area.

    It has also been suggested that ecological crises are an instance of risk homeostasis in which a particular behavior continues until proven dangerous or dramatic consequences actually occur. Sociologists and psychologists may refer to stress homeostasis , the tendency of a population or an individual to stay at a certain level of stress , often generating artificial stresses if the "natural" level of stress is not enough.

    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. The state of steady internal conditions maintained by living things. Not to be confused with hemostasis. Thermoregulation and Thermoregulation in humans. This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. Respiratory center and Gas exchange. Baroreflex and Renin—angiotensin system. Sodium in biology , Tubuloglomerular feedback , and Sodium-calcium exchanger.

    Acid—base homeostasis and Acid-base imbalance. Metabolism , Enterohepatic circulation , and Metabolic pathway. Regulation of gene expression.

    A dictionary of biology 6th ed. Annual Review of Physiology. The Wisdom of the Body. Steroids Health and Medical Issues Today. Control theory and physiological feedback mechanisms. Guyton and Hall textbook of medical physiology 12th ed. Biological control systems analysis. Principles of Anatomy and Physiology Fifth ed. Retrieved 13 July Women's Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation. Taking Charge of Your Fertility. Its Biology, Evolution, and Function.

    An introduction to clinical emergency medicine 2nd ed. Where Medicine Went Wrong: Rediscovering the Path to Complexity. Studies of Nonlinear Phenomena in Life Science. Lecture Notes in Morphogenesis.

    The mathematical theory of communication 4. University of Illinois Press. Gray's Anatomy Thirty-seventh ed. Advances in Physiology Education. Standring, Susan 41st ed. European Journal of Applied Physiology.

    Human physiology Twelfth ed. Medical biochemistry 4th ed. A reappraisal of the blood glucose homeostat which comprehensively explains the type 2 diabetes-syndrome X complex". Beyond Insulin and Glucagon".


    Learn about homeostasis, the regulation of conditions in the body such as temperature, water content and carbon dioxide levels. Maintaining homeostasis requires that the body continuously monitor its internal conditions. From body temperature to blood pressure to levels of certain. Homeostasis: A property of cells, tissues, and organisms that allows the maintenance and regulation of the stability and constancy needed to function properly.

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    Learn about homeostasis, the regulation of conditions in the body such as temperature, water content and carbon dioxide levels.


    Maintaining homeostasis requires that the body continuously monitor its internal conditions. From body temperature to blood pressure to levels of certain.


    Homeostasis: A property of cells, tissues, and organisms that allows the maintenance and regulation of the stability and constancy needed to function properly.


    WALTER CANNON devised the term homeostasis in while referring to how the body maintains its temperature, among other key variables. Credit.


    Homeostasis refers to stability, balance, or equilibrium within a cell or the body. It is an organism's ability to keep a constant internal environment. Homeostasis is.


    Homeostasis, in a general sense, refers to stability, balance, or equilibrium. Physiologically, it is the body's attempt to maintain a constant and balanced internal.


    Homeostasis is one of the hallmarks of life. Homeostasis is a resistance to change. For example, homeothermic organisms maintain a constant body.

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