Brain orexin promotes obesity resistance

Catherine Kotz, Joshua Nixon, Tammy Butterick, Claudio Perez-Leighton, Jennifer Teske, Charles Billington

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

72 Scopus citations


Resistance to obesity is becoming an exception rather than the norm, and understanding mechanisms that lead some to remain lean in spite of an obesigenic environment is critical if we are to find new ways to reverse this trend. Levels of energy intake and physical activity both contribute to body weight management, but it is challenging for most to adopt major long-term changes in either factor. Physical activity outside of formal exercise, also referred to as activity of daily living, and in stricter form, spontaneous physical activity (SPA), may be an attractive modifiable variable for obesity prevention. In this review, we discuss individual variability in SPA and NEAT (nonexercise thermogenesis, or the energy expended by SPA) and its relationship to obesity resistance. The hypothalamic neuropeptide orexin (hypocretin) may play a key role in regulating SPA and NEAT. We discuss how elevated orexin signaling capacity, in the context of a brain network modulating SPA, may play a major role in defining individual variability in SPA and NEAT. Greater activation of this SPA network leads to a lower propensity for fat mass gain and therefore may be an attractive target for obesity prevention and therapy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)72-86
Number of pages15
JournalAnnals of the New York Academy of Sciences
Issue number1
StatePublished - Aug 2012


  • Energy expenditure
  • Nonexercise activity thermogenesis
  • Obesity
  • Orexin
  • Spontaneous physical activity


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