Elevated zero maze test

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The elevated-O-maze is a modification of the plus-maze and displays the advantage of lacking the ambiguous central area of the elevated plus-maze.

As in the elevated-plus maze, this test is based on two conflicting innate tendencies: exploring a novel environment and avoiding elevated and open spaces constituting situations of predator risk. The apparatus consists of two open (stressful) and two enclosed (protecting) elevated arms that form a zero or circle. Time spent in exploring enclosed versus open arms indicates then the anxiety level of the animal. When placed into this apparatus, naïve mice and rats will, by nature, tend to explore less the open arms due its natural fear of heights and open spaces. In this context, anxiolytics generally increase the time spent exploring the open arms and anxiogenics have opposite effect, increasing the time spent into the closed arms.

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Reasons for choosing this test

  • Exploration-based conflict task
  • Based on innate behavioral tendencies (ethological test)
  • Open area versus closed area choice
  • Lacking ambiguous central area (compared to elevated plus maze)
  • Simple to set up and use
  • Short-lasting experiment (no more than 5-10 min)
  • Sensitive for both rats and mice

Reasons for not choosing this test

  • Repeated exposition induces habituation
  • Influenced by a host of variables
  • Needs intact locomotor performances
  • Difficult to dissociate impaired locomotor activity from anxiety-induced suppression of exploration
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