The hypothalamus regulates diverse physiological functions, including the control of energy metabolism, circadian rhythms, stress and anxiety, sexual and reproductive behaviors. An overview of the most prevalent hypothalamus-enriched mRNAs revealed that this area of the brain specializes in producing intercellular signaling molecules. Two new secreted peptides derived from a single neuropeptide precursor, named hypocretins and orexins by two different groups, are synthesized in a small set of neurons in the perifornical area of the hypothalamus. Intracerebroventricular injection of the hypocretins/orexins increases food consumption in rats. Here we review recent progress in identifying the role of the hypocretins/orexins in the control of energy balance and in other physiological systems.