Passive avoidance paradigm requires the subjects to behave contrary to their innate tendencies for preference of dark areas and avoidance of bright ones. The apparatus chamber used in this test is composed by a black poorly illuminated compartment and a white illuminated compartment.
- Acquisition/conditioning phase
During the acquisition/conditioning phase the animal is placed in the white compartment. When the animal innately crosses to the black compartment it receives a mild foot shock. Thus, during the initial phase the animal learns that the moving to the dark compartment has negative consequences.
- Test phase
During the test phase the animal is again placed in the white compartment and the passive avoidance response is evaluated. As opposed to an avoidance that entails active movement to avoid an aversive stimulus, the avoidance of the dark compartment requires the animal to remain in the white compartment and, therefore, the absence of movement; namely passive avoidance response.
Memory performance is positively correlated with the latency to escape from the white compartment; the better the recollection, the greater the latency.
The Passive Avoidance task is useful for evaluating the effect of novel chemical entities on learning and memory as well as studying the mechanisms involved in cognition.