Reference Work Entry

Encyclopedia of Pain

pp 3832-3837

Tail-Flick Test

  • Arne TjølsenAffiliated withPhysiologisches Institut der, Universität WürzburgDepartment of Bomedicine, University of Bergen, Haukeland University Hospital Email author 
  • , Kjell HoleAffiliated withPhysiologisches Institut der, Universität WürzburgUniversity of Bergen


The tail-flick test is a test of nociception used in rats and mice. The noxious stimulus is usually radiant heat on the tail or tail immersion in hot water, and the response is a flick of the tail. The outcome is the latency from the stimulus onset to the tail flick.


The tail-flick test is an extensively used test of nociception in rats and mice (Le Bars et al. 2001), first described in 1941 (D’Amour and Smith 1941). In the standard method, radiant heat is focused on the tail, and the time it takes until the animal flicks the tail away from the beam is measured. This tail-flick latency has been regarded a measure of the nociceptive sensitivity of the animal and is prolonged for instance by opioid analgesics. A spinal transection above the lumbar level does not block the tail-flick response. Thus, the test relies on a spinal nociceptive reflex, and pain is not measured directly. Still, this is considered a very useful test of a component of “ph ...

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