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Neuroscience. 2006 Sep 29;142(1):29-36. Epub 2006 Jun 30.

Orexin A mediation of time spent moving in rats: neural mechanisms.

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Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Geriatric Research, Education and Clinical Care (11G), One Veterans Drive, Minneapolis, MN 55417, USA.


The brain regulates energy balance and spontaneous physical activity, including both small- and large-motor activities. Neural mediators of spontaneous physical activity are currently undefined, although the amount of time spent in sedentary positions versus standing and ambulating may be important in the energetics of human obesity. Orexin A, a neuropeptide produced in caudal hypothalamic areas and projecting throughout the neuraxis, enhances arousal and spontaneous physical activity. To test the hypothesis that orexin A affects the amount of time spent moving, we injected orexin A (0-1000 pmol) into three orexin projection sites in male Sprague-Dawley rats: hypothalamic paraventricular nucleus, rostral lateral hypothalamic area and substantia nigra pars compacta, and measured spontaneous physical activity. Orexin A affects local GABA release and we co-injected orexin A with a GABA agonist, muscimol, in each brain site. Dopamine signaling is important to substantia nigra function and so we also co-injected a dopamine 1 receptor antagonist (SCH 23390) in the substantia nigra pars compacta. In all brain sites orexin A significantly increased time spent vertical and ambulating. Muscimol significantly and dose-dependently inhibited orexin A effects on time spent moving only when administered to the rostral lateral hypothalamic area. In the substantia nigra pars compacta, SCH 23390 completely blocked orexin A-induced ambulation. These data indicate that orexin A influences time spent moving, in three brain sites utilizing separate signaling mechanisms. That orexin A modulation of spontaneous physical activity occurs in brain areas with multiple roles indicates generalization across brain site, and may reflect a fundamental mechanism for enhancing activity levels. This potential for conferring physical activity stimulation may be useful for inducing shifts in time spent moving, which has important implications for obesity.

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