Hypocretin (also known as orexin) is a peptide neuromodulator that is expressed exclusively in the lateral hypothalamic area and plays a fundamental role in wakefulness and arousal. Chronic stress and compulsive drug-seeking are two examples of dysregulated states of hyperarousal that are influenced by hypocretin transmission throughout hypothalamic, extended amygdala, brainstem, and mesolimbic pathways. Here, we review current advances in the understanding of hypocretin's modulatory actions underlying conditions of negative and positive emotional valence, focusing particularly on mechanisms that facilitate adaptive (and maladaptive) responses to stressful or rewarding environmental stimuli. We conclude by discussing progress toward integrated theories for hypocretin modulation of divergent behavioral domains.
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