Relationship of arousal to circadian anticipatory behavior: ventromedial hypothalamus: one node in a hunger–arousal network


Dr A. C. Ribeiro, 1Laboratory of Neurobiology and Behavior, as above.


The mechanisms by which animals adapt to an ever-changing environment have long fascinated scientists. Different forces, conveying information regarding various aspects of the internal and external environment, interact with each other to modulate behavioral arousal. These forces can act in concert or, at times, in opposite directions. These signals eventually converge and are integrated to influence a common arousal pathway which, depending on all the information received from the environment, supports the activation of the most appropriate behavioral response. In this review we propose that the ventromedial hypothalamic nucleus (VMN) is part of the circuitry that controls food anticipation. It is the first nucleus activated when there is a change in the time of food availability, silencing of VMN ghrelin receptors decreases food-anticipatory activity (FAA) and, although lesions of the VMN do not abolish FAA, parts of the response are often altered. In proposing this model it is not our intention to exclude parallel, redundant and possibly interacting pathways that may ultimately communicate with, or work in concert with, the proposed network, but rather to describe the neuroanatomical requirements for this circuit and to illustrate how the VMN is strategically placed and connected to mediate this complex behavioral adaptation.