The hypocretins (Hcrts), also known as orexins, have been among the most intensely studied neuropeptide systems since their discovery about two decades ago. Anatomical evidence shows that the hypothalamic neurons that produce hypocretins/orexins project widely throughout the entire brain, innervating the noradrenergic locus coeruleus, the cholinergic basal forebrain, the dopaminergic ventral tegmental area, the serotonergic raphe nuclei, the histaminergic tuberomammillary nucleus, and many other brain regions. By interacting with other neural systems, the Hcrt system profoundly modulates versatile physiological processes including arousal, food intake, emotion, attention, and reward. Importantly, interruption of the interactions between these systems has the potential to cause neurological and psychiatric diseases. Here, we review the modulation of diverse neural systems by Hcrts and summarize potential therapeutic strategies based on our understanding of the Hcrt system's role in physiology and pathophysiological processes.
Keywords: Arousal; Attention; Hypothalamic neurogenesis; Orexin; Reward; Sleep; Stress modulation.