Integration of feeding and spontaneous physical activity: Role for orexin

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Spontaneous physical activity is activity that is non-volitional, or subconscious, such as fidgeting and shifting in one's seat, and time spent moving (standing and ambulating). Recent evidence indicates that spontaneous physical activity, and the resulting thermogenesis (non-exercise activity thermogenesis) may be regulated by brain systems. A large number of brain areas, with their associated neurotransmitter populations and connectivity, participate in the regulation of feeding behavior by acting as energy sensing and modulating centers. Although less well characterized, it is likely that a multitude of neurotransmitters and brain areas act to mediate spontaneous physical activity. These two behaviors, feeding and spontaneous physical activity, affect energy intake and expenditure and thus are important to body weight. Interestingly, often the two behaviors are affected simultaneously; when feeding is affected, so too is spontaneous physical activity, and both food intake and physical activity (whether spontaneous or volitional) influence activity of brain areas important to both. Several brain areas and neuropeptides are important to feeding and spontaneous physical activity. The lateral hypothalamus is one area that appears important to both behaviors, as stimulation or lesion of this region produces alterations in feeding behavior and spontaneous physical activity. Orexin neurons, with their central location in the lateral hypothalamus, widespread projections and connectivity to other brain areas important to energy homeostasis, are well situated to perform an integrative function. This review focuses on how hypothalamic orexins participate in both feeding and spontaneous physical activity, and provides potential models for the integration of signals important to both.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)294-301
Number of pages8
JournalPhysiology and Behavior
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 30 2006


  • Central nervous system
  • Energy metabolism
  • Feeding behavior
  • Hypocretin
  • Locomotor activity


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