Open-field test for anxiety

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The open field test is classically used to assess anxiety in rodent. 

This test is based on conflicting innate tendencies of avoidance of bright light and open spaces (that ethologically mimic a situation of predator risk) and of exploring novel environment. When placed into a brightly lit open field for the first time, rats and mice tend to remain in the periphery of the apparatus or against the walls (thigmotaxis). It had been shown that anxiolytics administration increases exploration time in the center of the open field while stressful stimuli decrease the number of center visits. Open field activity, therefore, represents a valid measure of marked changes in “anxiety-like” behaviors in drug-treated and genetically manipulated animals. Open-field procedure can also be used for general assessment of animal basal locomotor activity and exploration. In these cases, non-stressful conditions are needed (habituation, low lighting conditions) and the experiment duration can be longer.


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TRUSCAN (Coulbourn)


Reasons for choosing this test

  • Exploration-based conflict task
  • Based on innate behavioral tendencies (ethological test)
  • Central area versus periphery choice
  • Simple to set up and use
  • Short-lasting experiment (no more than 10 min)
  • Standard test for anxiety widely used in literature
  • 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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