The paraventricular nucleus of the midline thalamus (PVT) innervates areas of the extended amygdala known to play a key role in the expression of emotional behaviors. In this study, microinjections of orexins (hypocretins), which have excitatory actions on neurons in the PVT, in the midline thalamus were used to investigate if the PVT modulates the expression of emotional behavior in the open field. First, the approach-avoidance tendency (number and duration of visit to the center area) associated with novelty was examined in orexin treated rats before and after placing a novel object in the center of the open field. Second, the expression of ethological behaviors (rearing, locomotion, freezing, and grooming) in the open field was used to determine the effects of orexins on emotionality. Microinjections of orexin-A (OXA) or orexin-B (OXB) in the PVT decreased exploration of the center area and the novel object indicating that the center area and the object had more aversive properties in orexin treated rats. Both OXA and OXB microinjections in the PVT increased the expression of freezing and grooming behaviors which are indicative of a negative emotional state. The results indicate that microinjections of orexins in the PVT made the test situation more aversive and produced avoidance behaviors. This suggests that orexins may act at the PVT to modulate behaviors associated with a negative emotional state.
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