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How does your body react to cold?
These people may be having fun in the icy water, but their bodies are struggling to react to the cold. For example,
they may begin to shiver. Shivering helps the body return to a stable temperature. The body is always working to
achieve stability, or homeostasis.
This ability of the body to maintain a stable internal environment despite a changing environment is called homeostasis. Homeostasis doesn’t just protect against temperature changes. Other aspects of your internal environment also stay stable. For example, your body closely regulates your fluid balance. You may have noticed that if you are slightly dehydrated, your urine is darker. That’s because the urine is more concentrated and less water is mixed in with it.
So how does your body maintain homeostasis? The regulation of your internal environment is done primarily through negative feedback. Negative feedback is a response to a stimulus that keeps a variable close to a set value.
For example, your body has an internal thermostat. During a winter day, in your house a thermostat senses the temperature in a room and responds by turning on or off the heater. Your body acts in much the same way. When body temperature rises, receptors in the skin and the brain sense the temperature change. The temperature change triggers a command from the brain. This command can cause several responses. If you are too hot, the skin makes sweat and blood vessels near the skin surface dilate. This response helps decrease body temperature.
Some processes in the body are regulated by positive feedback. Positive feedback is when a response to an event
increases the likelihood of the event to continue. An example of positive feedback is milk production in nursing
mothers. As the baby drinks her mother’s milk, the hormone prolactin, a chemical signal, is released. The more the
baby suckles, the more prolactin is released, which causes more milk to be produced.
Point to be Noted
• homeostasis: Ability to keep a stable internal environment; the ability of the body to maintain a stable internal
environment despite a changing environment.
• hormone: Chemical messenger molecule.
• negative feedback: Response to a stimulus that keeps a variable close to a set value.
• positive feedback: Response to an event increases the likelihood of the event to continue
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