The ability to anticipate physiological needs and to predict the availability of desirable resources optimizes the likelihood of survival for an organism. The neural basis of the complex behaviors associated with anticipatory responses is now being delineated. Anticipation likely involves learning and memory, reward and punishment, memory and cognition, arousal and feedback associated with changes in internal and external state, homeostatic processes and timing mechanisms. While anticipation can occur on a variety of timescales (seconds to minutes to hours to days to a year), there have been great strides made towards understanding the neural basis timing of events in the circadian realm. Anticipation of daily events, such as scheduled access to food, may serve as a useful model for a more broadly based understanding the neurobiology of anticipation. In this review we examine the historical, conceptual and experimental approaches to understanding the neural basis of anticipation with a focus on anticipation of scheduled daily meals. We also introduce the key topics represented in the papers in this issue. These papers focused on food anticipation, to explore the state of the art in the studies of the neural basis of timing and anticipatory behaviors.