Research Topic

The Lateral Hypothalamus is a Critical Hub in the Neurocircuitry that Controls Arousal and Motivation

About this Research Topic

The development of survival skills requires the evolutionary emergence of coherent and coordinated innate behaviors that adapt behavioral strategies in function of basic need priorities. These behaviors have evolved from the most basic instinct expression to the elaboration of complex goal-oriented behaviors and subtle decision-making processes. Compelling evidence has established over the last 50 years that a complex network of intermingled hypothalamic nuclei, which are anatomically and functionally distinct, mediates the integration and processing of basic needs. The current consensus acknowledges the hypothalamus as a brain orchestrator composed of heterogeneous, widely-projecting neurons whose activity is essential for coordinating vital functions including energy balance, sleep and body temperature, stress response and reproduction. However, how these intricate networks are organized to produce coordinated behavior, and further, how alteration of this complex circuitry may lead to a pathological state, remains largely unknown. Therefore, elucidating circuits, neurotransmitters, intracellular signaling molecules, and genes that underlie the complex coordination of basic needs is invaluable for the treatment of sleep impairments, eating disorders, drug addiction and other stress-related psychiatric disorders. In particular, the role of the hypocretin/orexin system in the control of sleep and wakefulness through multiple interactions with brain structures involved in the regulation of emotion, reward, stress and energy homeostasis has been evolving over the past 20 years. A current consensus acknowledges that this peptidergic system contributes to elicit appropriate levels of arousal to engage exploratory and goal-oriented behaviors depending on physiological needs (hunger, thirst), and orchestrates the stress response that drives motivation for food and liquid seeking. Meanwhile, it is now accepted that neural systems involved in processing natural rewards and drugs of abuse overlap and increasing evidence suggests that neuroplasticity caused by exposure to drugs of abuse may be responsible for maladaptive, compulsive, addictive behavior. The lateral hypothalamus is a critical hub in which different neural systems are recruited by drugs and natural rewards.

In light of the 20th anniversary of the discovery of hypocretin/orexin system, this Research Topic aims to assemble the most contemporary research depicting the role of the lateral hypothalamic micro-circuitry and its complex interconnections in arousal, stress and motivation. This Research Topic will summarize the most current knowledge in the field, and hopefully stimulate further research given the real therapeutic potential of hypothalamic targets for the prevention of drug craving and relapse as well as stress-related neuropsychiatric disorders.


Keywords: arousal, motivation, drug abuse, addiction, sleep


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

The development of survival skills requires the evolutionary emergence of coherent and coordinated innate behaviors that adapt behavioral strategies in function of basic need priorities. These behaviors have evolved from the most basic instinct expression to the elaboration of complex goal-oriented behaviors and subtle decision-making processes. Compelling evidence has established over the last 50 years that a complex network of intermingled hypothalamic nuclei, which are anatomically and functionally distinct, mediates the integration and processing of basic needs. The current consensus acknowledges the hypothalamus as a brain orchestrator composed of heterogeneous, widely-projecting neurons whose activity is essential for coordinating vital functions including energy balance, sleep and body temperature, stress response and reproduction. However, how these intricate networks are organized to produce coordinated behavior, and further, how alteration of this complex circuitry may lead to a pathological state, remains largely unknown. Therefore, elucidating circuits, neurotransmitters, intracellular signaling molecules, and genes that underlie the complex coordination of basic needs is invaluable for the treatment of sleep impairments, eating disorders, drug addiction and other stress-related psychiatric disorders. In particular, the role of the hypocretin/orexin system in the control of sleep and wakefulness through multiple interactions with brain structures involved in the regulation of emotion, reward, stress and energy homeostasis has been evolving over the past 20 years. A current consensus acknowledges that this peptidergic system contributes to elicit appropriate levels of arousal to engage exploratory and goal-oriented behaviors depending on physiological needs (hunger, thirst), and orchestrates the stress response that drives motivation for food and liquid seeking. Meanwhile, it is now accepted that neural systems involved in processing natural rewards and drugs of abuse overlap and increasing evidence suggests that neuroplasticity caused by exposure to drugs of abuse may be responsible for maladaptive, compulsive, addictive behavior. The lateral hypothalamus is a critical hub in which different neural systems are recruited by drugs and natural rewards.

In light of the 20th anniversary of the discovery of hypocretin/orexin system, this Research Topic aims to assemble the most contemporary research depicting the role of the lateral hypothalamic micro-circuitry and its complex interconnections in arousal, stress and motivation. This Research Topic will summarize the most current knowledge in the field, and hopefully stimulate further research given the real therapeutic potential of hypothalamic targets for the prevention of drug craving and relapse as well as stress-related neuropsychiatric disorders.


Keywords: arousal, motivation, drug abuse, addiction, sleep


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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15 March 2018 Manuscript

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Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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Topic Editors

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Submission Deadlines

15 March 2018 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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