Orexin signaling in the paraventricular thalamic nucleus modulates mesolimbic dopamine and hedonic feeding in the rat

Neuroscience. 2012 May 17;210:243-8. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2012.02.036. Epub 2012 Mar 2.


Data from our laboratory indicate that the orexin system is involved in the regulation of both conditioned and unconditioned responding for palatable foods. Anticipation of food rewards activates orexin receptor containing neurons within the paraventricular nucleus of the thalamus (PVT). The PVT regulates mesolimbic dopamine neurochemistry through direct connections with the nucleus accumbens and modulates the processing of cognitive-emotional information, suggesting that the PVT may represent a unique brain region with the capacity to mediate orexinergic effects on brain dopamine and behavior. Here, we tested the hypothesis that PVT orexin signaling mediates mesolimbic dopamine and reward-based feeding. To do this we used a behavioral pharmacological approach in tandem with central genetic manipulation of the orexin-1 receptor in the PVT. Data from these studies indicate that orexin-A action in the PVT increases dopamine levels in the nucleus accumbens. In addition, endogenous orexin signaling in the PVT mediates locomotor activity and hedonic feeding responses. Together these data highlight the PVT as a critical site capable of mediating orexin action on brain dopamine and reward-based feeding.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Dopamine / metabolism*
  • Feeding Behavior / physiology*
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Motor Activity / physiology
  • Neuropeptides / metabolism*
  • Orexins
  • Paraventricular Hypothalamic Nucleus / metabolism*
  • RNA, Small Interfering
  • Rats
  • Rats, Long-Evans
  • Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*


  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins
  • Neuropeptides
  • Orexins
  • RNA, Small Interfering
  • Dopamine