Orexins are neuropeptides released in multiple brain regions from neurons that originate within the lateral hypothalamus and contiguous perfornical area. The basal forebrain, a structure implicated in attentional processing, receives orexinergic inputs. Our previous work demonstrated that administration of an orexin-1 receptor antagonist, SB-334867, systemically or via infusion directly into the basal forebrain, can disrupt performance in a task that places explicit demands on attentional processing. Given that the orexin-1 receptor binds orexin A with high affinity, we tested whether orexin A could enhance attention in rats. Attentional performance was assessed using a task that required discrimination of variable duration visual signals from trials when no signal was presented. We also tested whether infusions of orexin A into the lateral ventricle could attenuate deficits following lesions of medial prefrontal cortical cholinergic projections that arise from the basal forebrain. Infusions of orexin A into the basal forebrain attenuated distracter-induced decreases in attentional performance. Orexin A attenuated deficits in lesioned animals when a visual distracter was presented. The present results support the view that orexin A can enhance attentional performance via actions in the basal forebrain and may be beneficial for some conditions characterized by attentional dysfunction due to disruption of cortical cholinergic inputs.
Zajo, K. N., Fadel, J. R., & Burk, J. A. (2016). Orexin A-induced enhancement of attentional processing in rats: role of basal forebrain neurons. Psychopharmacology, 233(4), 639-647.