Orexin-A (ORX-A) and orexin-B (ORX-B), also called hypocretin-1 and hypocretin-2, respectively, act upon orexin 1 (OX1R) and orexin 2 (OX2R) receptors, and are involved in the regulation of sleep-wakefulness and energy homeostasis. Orexin neurons in the lateral hypothalamic perifornical region project heavily to the paraventricular nucleus of the thalamus (PVT), which is deeply involved in the control of motivated behaviors. In the present study, electrophysiological and cytosolic Ca2+ concentration ([Ca2+]i) imaging studies on the effects of ORX-A and ORX-B on neurons in the PVT were carried out in rat brain slice preparations. ORX-A and/or ORX-B were applied extracellularly in the perfusate. Extracellular recordings showed that about 80% of the PVT neurons were excited dose-dependently by both ORX-A and ORX-B at concentrations of 10(-8) to 10(-6)M, and the increase in firing rate was about three times larger for ORX-B than for ORX-A at 10(-7)M. When both ORX-A and ORX-B were applied simultaneously at 10(-7)M, the increase in firing rate was almost equal to that of ORX-B at 10(-7)M, suggesting that the PVT neurons do not show a high affinity to ORX-A which is expected if they have OX1R receptors. The excitatory effect of ORX-B was seen in low Ca2+ and high Mg2+ ACSF as well as in normal ACSF, and the increase in firing rate was greater in low Ca2+ and high Mg2+ ACSF than in normal ACSF. [Ca2+]i imaging studies demonstrated that [Ca2+]i was increased in about 50% of the PVT neurons by both 10(-7)M ORX-A and ORX-B with a stronger effect for ORX-B, and the increase in [Ca2+]i induced by ORX-B was abolished in Ca2+-free ACSF, suggesting that ORX-B does not release Ca2+ from intracellular Ca2+ stores. Subsequent whole cell patch clamp recordings revealed that an after hyperpolarization seen following each action potential in normal ACSF disappeared in Ca2+-free ACSF, and the mean magnitude of the depolarization induced by ORX-B was same in normal, Ca2+-free and TTX-containing Ca2+-free ACSFs. Furthermore, ORX-B-induced depolarization was reversed to hyperpolarization when membrane potential was lowered to about -97 mV, and an increase of extracellular K+ concentration from 4.25 to 13.25 mM abolished the ORX-B-induced depolarization, indicating that the ORX-B-induced depolarization is associated with an increase in the membrane resistance resulting from a closure of K+ channels. These results suggest that orexins depolarize and excite post-synaptically PVT neurons via OX2R receptors, and that orexin-activated PVT neurons play a role in the integration of sleep-wakefulness and energy homeostasis, and in the control of motivated behaviors.