The lateral hypothalamus is comprised of a heterogeneous mix of neurons that serve to integrate and regulate sleep, feeding, stress, energy balance, reward, and motivated behavior. Within these populations, the hypocretin/orexin neurons are among the most well studied. Here, we provide an overview on how these neurons act as a central hub integrating sensory and physiological information to tune arousal and motivated behavior accordingly. We give special attention to their role in sleep-wake states and conditions of hyper-arousal, as is the case with stress-induced anxiety. We further discuss their roles in feeding, drug-seeking, and sexual behavior, which are all dependent on the motivational state of the animal. We further emphasize the application of powerful techniques, such as optogenetics, chemogenetics, and fiber photometry, to delineate the role these neurons play in lateral hypothalamic functions.
Keywords: arousal; hypocretin; lateral hypothalamus; motivation; reward.