Orexin, stress, and anxiety/panic states

Philip Johnson, Andrei Molosh, Stephanie D. Fitz, William Truitt, Anantha Shekhar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

114 Scopus citations


A panic response is an adaptive response to deal with an imminent threat and consists of an integrated pattern of behavioral (aggression, fleeing, or freezing) and increased cardiorespiratory and endocrine responses that are highly conserved across vertebrate species. In the 1920s and 1940s, Philip Bard and Walter Hess, respectively, determined that the posterior regions of the hypothalamus are critical for a " fight-or-flight" reaction to deal with an imminent threat. Since the 1940s it was determined that the posterior hypothalamic panic area was located dorsal (perifornical hypothalamus: PeF) and dorsomedial (dorsomedial hypothalamus: DMH) to the fornix. This area is also critical for regulating circadian rhythms and in 1998, a novel wake-promoting neuropeptide called orexin (ORX)/hypocretin was discovered and determined to be almost exclusively synthesized in the DMH/PeF perifornical hypothalamus and adjacent lateral hypothalamus. The most proximally emergent role of ORX is in regulation of wakefulness through interactions with efferent systems that mediate arousal and energy homeostasis. A hypoactive ORX system is also linked to narcolepsy. However, ORX role in more complex emotional responses is emerging in more recent studies where ORX is linked to depression and anxiety states. Here, we review data that demonstrates ORX ability to mobilize a coordinated adaptive panic/defense response (anxiety, cardiorespiratory, and endocrine components), and summarize the evidence that supports a hyperactive ORX system being linked to pathological panic and anxiety states.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)133-161
Number of pages29
JournalProgress in Brain Research
StatePublished - 2012


  • Anxiety
  • Arousal
  • Circadian
  • Diurnal
  • GABA
  • Glutamate
  • Hypocretin
  • Hypothalamus
  • Panic
  • Perifornical

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)

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