Marble burying reflects a repetitive and perseverative behavior more than novelty-induced anxiety
An increasing number of investigators utilize the marble-burying assay despite the paucity of information available regarding what underlies the behavior.
We tested the possibility that a genetic component underlies marble burying in mice and if there is a genetic correlation with other anxiety-like traits. Since findings reported in the literature indicate that marble-burying behavior reflects an anxiety-like response, we explored the assumption that the novel nature of a marble induces this anxiety. Finally, we investigated how the natural response of a mouse to dig relates to the marble-burying phenomenon.
We examined ten different inbred mouse strains to determine if marble-burying behavior is genetically regulated and correlated with anxiety-like traits in two other assays. We employed multiple variants of the “traditional” marble-burying assay to address how issues such as the novelty of marbles and digging behavior contribute to marble burying.
Marble-burying behavior varied across strain and did not correlate with anxiety measures in other assays. Multiple tests conducted to reduce the novelty of marbles failed to alter burying behavior. Additionally, digging behavior correlated with marble burying, and the presence of marbles did not significantly impact the digging response.
Our results indicate that mouse marble burying is genetically regulated, not correlated with other anxiety-like traits, not stimulated by novelty, and is a repetitive behavior that persists/perseveres with little change across multiple exposures. Marble burying is related to digging behavior and may in fact be more appropriately considered as an indicative measure of repetitive digging.
KeywordsMarble burying Anxiety Perseverative Obsessive–compulsive Digging
This work was supported by the Baylor Fragile X Center and the Baylor EKS IDDRC (NICHD, HD24064). A.T. and A.B. received partial support from NIGMS training grants T32 GM08307 and TM GM008507, respectively. We would like to thank Dr. Corinne Spencer, Shannon Hamilton, and Randi-Michelle Cowin for their valuable input and suggestions during the course of this study.
- Adams N, Boice R (1981) Mouse (Mus) burrows: effects of age, strain, and domestication. Anim Learn Behav 9:140–144Google Scholar
- Boice R, Adams N (1980) Outdoor enclosures for feralizing rats and mice. Behav Res Meth Instrum 12:577–582Google Scholar
- Crawley JN, Belknap JK, Collins A, Crabbe JC, Frankel W, Henderson N, Hitzemann RJ, Maxson SC, Miner LL, Silva AJ, Wehner JM, Wynshaw-Boris A, Paylor R (1997) Behavioral phenotypes of inbred mouse strains: implications and recommendations for molecular studies. Psychopharmacology 132:107–124PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Takeuchi H, Yatsugi S, Yamaguchi T (2002) Effect of YM992, a novel antidepressant with selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitory and 5-HT2A receptor antagonistic activity, on a marble-burying behavior test as an obsessive-compulsive disorder model. Jpn J Pharmacol 90:197–200PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Webster DG, Williams MH, Owens RD, Geiger VB, Dewsbury DA (1981) Digging behavior in 12 taxa of muroid rodents. Anim Learn Behav 9(2):173–177Google Scholar