The basic elements of animal behavior that are critical to survival include energy, arousal, and motivation: Energy intake and expenditure are fundamental to all organisms for the performance of any type of function; according to the Yerkes-Dodson law, an optimal level of arousal is required for animals to perform normal functions; and motivation is critical to goal-oriented behaviors in higher animals. The brain is the primary organ that controls these elements and, through evolution, has developed specialized structures to accomplish this task. The orexin/hypocretin system in the perifornical/lateral hypothalamus, which was discovered 15 years ago, is one such specialized area. This review summarizes a fast-growing body of evidence discerning how the orexin/hypocretin system integrates internal and external cues to regulate energy intake that can then be used to generate sufficient arousal for animals to perform innate and goal-oriented behaviors.
Keywords: energy balance; hypocretin; hypocretin/orexin; motivational behavior; orexin; sleep/wake regulation.