Of course, our brains are the most powerful, stabilized processors. And they don't go outside of their temperature thresholds under normal / even abnormal(till some threshold) conditions.

I felt like (or just delusion-ed) that an area on my head(top back) heats more than other areas when I work on complex computer programs (algorithms, mathematics, three dimensional thinking etc., lots of -metaphorically- brain burner topic to think about).

I measured it like a caveman (Edit: I'm just measuring the blood flow in the scalp as mentioned in the comment below, looks like useless data), with an infrared hand thermometer and:

  • Top Front was: 29.1°C
  • Top Back was: 31.5°C

I always think that a metaphor shouldn't be totally wrong. If people made this comparison and invented the metaphor, I think we can deduct that it can be partly correct. So, does my parietal lobe heat more or it is just a delusion?

EDIT: I'm a roboticist and totally unfamiliar with the field, asked this question because of curiosity. I've read about parietal lobe functions from wiki and deducted these, the wiki page had references for them there:

  • knowledge of numbers and their relations (reading arithmetic information from the code?, imagining object manipulations in the simulation?)
  • manipulation of objects, processing information relating to the sense of touch (Maybe related to controlling keyboard?)
  • visuospatial processing (Thinking in 3D Space?)
  • has a function in hand and eye movements
  • mathematical cognition, probabilistic reasoning [paper]
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    The frontal lobe is where all that hard thinking takes place, so your theory would predict the opposite results. I think you're measuring blood flow in the scalp, not the brain.
    – Carey Gregory
    Feb 22, 2019 at 16:10
  • Thank You! I'm a roboticist, and totally unfamiliar with the field. Just thought like above when I read the parietal lobe functions from wiki. I'll update my question with further information. Feb 22, 2019 at 16:44
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    @CareyGregory "The frontal lobe is where all that hard thinking takes place"* - I think that's not necessarily true and certainly not known or understood, though it is certainly true that a) task differences in metabolism are small compared to baseline metabolism, and b) Surface temperature measurements aren't going to tell you much if anything about regional brain metabolism, you're just measuring blood flow in the scalp which isn't all that connected to the brain from a circulatory standpoint.
    – Bryan Krause
    Feb 22, 2019 at 17:57
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    @OrhanG.Hafif I think it would be useful for you to read a bit about how neuroscientists study this sort of thing. fMRI is the closest approach to what you are asking about: metabolism in different brain areas while doing different tasks. It isn't measuring heat, but rather changes in blood oxygenation that occur when blood flow is directed to areas that are more metabolically active. Any possible difference in temperature is far too small to be important biologically and certainly won't show up on the scalp.
    – Bryan Krause
    Feb 22, 2019 at 18:00
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    @OrhanG.Hafif The problem here is that you have measured the scalp temperature and obviously you can't take intracerebral temperatures. Even if we skip that part, while doing mathematics, thinking 3d figure,etc. we have no idea if you do that by reading or by imagination. So this may even involve the visual centers of brain which may be primary or secondary. Even more while performing these visual task you will be forming memory which will involve cerebral cortex itself (Ref. Guyton & Hall Physiology) Feb 22, 2019 at 18:37

1 Answer 1


Short Answer- Yes, brain activity does cause temperature fluctuations in specific area.

robust changes in brain temperature could occur in a temperature-stable environment following exposure to various salient somatosensory stimuli and during different types of motivated behaviors.  1

There are different points of view on why these fluctuations occur and what their underlying mechanisms are.

Alterations in metabolic brain activity are the primary cause of intra-brain heat accumulation and a force behind more delayed changes in body temperature.  1

  • Brain temperature fluctuations reported in these experiments(here) correlated with the biological significance of the environmental challenges, spontaneous and stimuli-induced changes in EEG and motor activity, and had some structural specificity with respect to the modality of sensory stimuli.

Let's think about numbers:

  • Although the brain represents ~2% of the human body’s mass, it accounts for ~20% of the organism’s total oxygen consumption at rest  Since all energy used for brain metabolism appears to be finally transformed into heat, intense heat production appears to be an essential feature of brain metabolic activity.

From animal experiments All stimuli induced rapid, unique, and relatively long lasting temperature elevations in both brain structures and arterial blood, greatly exceeding the duration of stimulation. Rat experiment

  • each brain structure had its own basal temperature 

  • stimuli induced rapid, unique, and relatively long lasting temperature elevations in both brain structures and arterial blood

  • temperature changes in each brain structure occurred significantly faster and had stronger amplitude than those in arterial blood

  • temperature changes had structural specificity. Both striatal divisions showed quite similar changes, but temperature increases in cerebellum were more delayed and prolonged following each stimulus. 

  • temperature changes had structural specificity. Both striatal divisions showed quite similar changes, but temperature increases in cerebellum were more delayed and prolonged following each stimulus. 

Blood supply to the brain is cooler than the brain itself:

  • Given that the blood supply to the brain is cooler than the brain itself, and that brain temperatures rise more quickly and to a larger extent than do arterial blood and head muscle temperatures in response to all challenges, intra-brain heat production appears to be the primary cause of functional brain hyperthermia.

  • While arterial blood temperature also gradually increases in response to all challenges, brain-arterial blood temperature differentials grow consistently during behavioral activation, showing an apparent increase in intra-brain heat production. Therefore, it seems that increased blood circulation that accompanies functional brain activation removes heat from the brain

  • brain circulation is a significant factor in the re-distribution of locally released heat within brain tissue and in its removal from the brain, thus contributing to brain temperature fluctuations occurring under behavioral conditions.

  • By increasing blood flow above the brain’s current demand, more oxygen and nutrients are delivered to the areas of potential demand and more potentially dangerous metabolic heat is removed from intensively working brain tissue. 

More dorsally located structures were consistently cooler

(I added this thing as I thought it was interesting here as it's opposite of what OP had in question, however, that was surface temperature)

  • Tested at the same conditions, more dorsally located structures were consistently cooler (dorsal striatum, 36.6°C; hippocampus, 35.6°C) than more ventrally located structures (ventral tegmental area of midbrain, 37.3°C; medial preoptic area of hypothalamus, 37.3°C; nucleus accumbens or NAcc, 37.3°C). 

In Conclusion, in contrast to general beliefs that brain temperature is a stable, tightly regulated homeostatic parameter, data presented in this review demonstrate a relatively wide range of fluctuations (~3°C) occurring in rats following exposure to salient somato-sensory stimuli and during various motivated behaviors. Although rats and humans have obvious differences in temperature regulation and human data are very limited, similarity between rats and monkeys in general patterns of brain temperature fluctuations may support the findings.

References 1.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3149793/#!po=22.6852

  • Thanks a lot for the explanation, it helped me realizing the information structure that's been discussed in comments under the question. I'm marking it the correct one for now since there is no other answer. But, I didn't get the part that shows temperatures of the things that are very inside of the brain. Aren't all those areas not related to the thinking ability? After thinking about it for days, I even started to think like, Maybe all of top of my head is overheating and front is more cooler than back because of the open forehead (no hair), that helps cooling a bit. Mar 4, 2019 at 18:59
  • Yes, those areas are important for memory particularly the hippocampus. Front being cooler than back because of no hair; sounds like a separate question (though related :) ) Mar 4, 2019 at 19:06
  • This is so complicated :) I thought about all of them, for different kind of tasks. That's why I thought like they're unrelated; already in use for lots of different tasks, looked unobservable to me :) My point is still same, the metaphor. During hard thinking, all of the lobes(some of them more, some of them less) are participating and burning lots of oxygen; causing the heat. I thought like, that the small temperature difference can pass through skull if the activity is going on for hours. Mar 4, 2019 at 19:28
  • I think the ability of coding is related to 'algorithmic intelligence', which is completely new kind of intelligence that appeared in this century. I know lots of people who are more talented about math, languages etc. than me, but also some of those math genius friends were less talented about algorithms than me. That's why I thought like, maybe different lobes or parts are involved during coding. Mar 4, 2019 at 19:32
  • I'll ask new questions for making people burn more oxygen :) Mar 4, 2019 at 19:38

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