The neuropeptide Y (NPY)/Agouti-related protein (AgRP) neurons of the hypothalamic arcuate nucleus are thought to promote feeding. Here, we demonstrate that feeding state in vivo, through a leptin-dependent process, induces large and persistent changes in the electrophysiological activity of these neurons as measured extracellularly in vitro. Consistent with an orexigenic role, fasting induced a 4-fold increase in the basal action potential frequency of NPY/AgRP neurons. Leptin, when injected into fasted wild-type mice, induced a dose- and time-dependent decrease in spike frequency, which approached fed levels 2-3 h post treatment. In leptin-deficient (lep(ob)/lep(ob)) and leptin receptor-deficient (lepr(db)/lepr(db)) mice, NPY/AgRP spike frequency was not significantly increased by fasting, and even in mutant mice fed ad libitum, spike frequency was at least as high as in fasted wild-type mice. All recordings included GABA(A) and ionotropic glutamate receptor antagonists, suggesting that expression of this modulation is potentially intrinsic and not synaptically dependent. Recorded neurons were unambiguously identified using NPY-Sapphire transgenic mice. This is a remarkably straightforward example of a very robust in vitro electrophysiogical effect produced by a simple behavioral manipulation, food restriction.