Mammals respond to reduced food availability by becoming more wakeful and active, yet the central pathways regulating arousal and instinctual motor programs (such as food seeking) according to homeostatic need are not well understood. We demonstrate that hypothalamic orexin neurons monitor indicators of energy balance and mediate adaptive augmentation of arousal in response to fasting. Activity of isolated orexin neurons is inhibited by glucose and leptin and stimulated by ghrelin. Orexin expression of normal and ob/ob mice correlates negatively with changes in blood glucose, leptin, and food intake. Transgenic mice, in which orexin neurons are ablated, fail to respond to fasting with increased wakefulness and activity. These findings indicate that orexin neurons provide a crucial link between energy balance and arousal.
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