Corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) that is released from the paraventricular nucleus (PVN) of the hypothalamus is essential for mediating stress response by activating the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. CRF-releasing PVN neurons receive inputs from multiple brain regions that convey stressful events, but their neuronal dynamics on the timescale of behavior remain unknown. Here, our recordings of PVN CRF neuronal activity in freely behaving mice revealed that CRF neurons are activated immediately by a range of aversive stimuli. By contrast, CRF neuronal activity starts to drop within a second of exposure to appetitive stimuli. Optogenetic activation or inhibition of PVN CRF neurons was sufficient to induce a conditioned place aversion or preference, respectively. Furthermore, conditioned place aversion or preference induced by natural stimuli was significantly decreased by manipulating PVN CRF neuronal activity. Together, these findings suggest that the rapid, biphasic responses of PVN CRF neurons encode the positive and negative valences of stimuli.