Role of lateral hypothalamus in two aspects of attention in associative learning

Daniel S. Wheeler, Sandy Wan, Alexandra Miller, Nicole Angeli, Bayan Adileh, Weidong Hu, Peter C. Holland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Orexin (hypocretin) and melanin-concentrating hormone (MCH) neurons are unique to the lateral hypothalamic (LH) region, but project throughout the brain. These cell groups have been implicated in a variety of functions, including reward learning, responses to stimulants, and the modulation of attention, arousal and the sleep/wakefulness cycle. Here, we examined roles for LH in two aspects of attention in associative learning shown previously to depend on intact function in major targets of orexin and MCH neurons. In experiments 1 and 2, unilateral orexin-saporin lesions of LH impaired the acquisition of conditioned orienting responses (ORs) and bilaterally suppressed FOS expression in the amygdala central nucleus (CeA) normally observed in response to food cues that provoke conditioned ORs. Those cues also induced greater FOS expression than control cues in LH orexin neurons, but not in MCH neurons. In experiment 3, unilateral orexin-saporin lesions of LH eliminated the cue associability enhancements normally produced by the surprising omission of an expected event. The magnitude of that impairment was positively correlated with the amount of LH damage and with the loss of orexin neurons in particular, but not with the loss of MCH neurons. We suggest that the effects of the LH orexin-saporin lesions were mediated by their effect on information processing in the CeA, known to be critical to both behavioral phenomena examined here. The results imply close relations between LH motivational amplification functions and attention, and may inform our understanding of disorders in which motivational and attentional impairments co-occur.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2359-2377
Number of pages19
JournalEuropean Journal of Neuroscience
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jul 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Amygdala
  • Attention
  • Central nucleus
  • Lateral hypothalamus
  • Melanin-concentrating hormone
  • Orexin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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