The lateral hypothalamus (LH) is a functionally and anatomically complex brain region that is involved in the regulation of many behavioral and physiological processes including feeding, arousal, energy balance, stress, reward and motivated behaviors, pain perception, body temperature regulation, digestive functions and blood pressure. Despite noteworthy experimental efforts over the past decades, the circuit, cellular and synaptic bases by which these different processes are regulated by the LH remains incompletely understood. This knowledge gap links in large part to the high cellular heterogeneity of the LH. Fortunately, the rapid evolution of newer genetic and electrophysiological tools is now permitting the selective manipulation, typically genetically-driven, of discrete LH cell populations. This, in turn, permits not only assignment of function to discrete cell groups, but also reveals that considerable synergistic and antagonistic interactions exist between key LH cell populations that regulate feeding and arousal. For example, we now know that while LH melanin-concentrating hormone (MCH) and orexin/hypocretin neurons both function as sensors of the internal metabolic environment, their roles regulating sleep and arousal are actually opposing. Additional studies have uncovered similarly important roles for subpopulations of LH GABAergic cells in the regulation of both feeding and arousal. Herein we review the role of LH MCH, orexin/hypocretin and GABAergic cell populations in the regulation of energy homeostasis (including feeding) and sleep-wake and discuss how these three cell populations, and their subpopulations, may interact to optimize and coordinate metabolism, sleep and arousal.

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Department of Neuroscience

Arrigoni, E. (Elda), Chee, M, & Fuller, P.M. (Patrick M.). (2018). To eat or to sleep: That is a lateral hypothalamic question. Neuropharmacology. doi:10.1016/j.neuropharm.2018.11.017