, Volume 211, Issue 1, pp 99–112

Measuring anxiety- and locomotion-related behaviours in mice: a new way of using old tests

  • Leanne M. Fraser
  • Richard E. Brown
  • Ahmed Hussin
  • Mara Fontana
  • Ashley Whittaker
  • Timothy P. O’Leary
  • Lauren Lederle
  • Andrew Holmes
  • André Ramos
Original Investigation



Batteries of tests that are thought to measure different aspects of anxiety-related behaviour are used to characterise mice after genetic or pharmacological manipulation. However, because of the potentially confounding effects of repeated testing and natural intra-individual variations in behaviour over time, subjecting mice to a succession of tests is not ideal.


The aim of this study was to investigate, in mice, the utility of an integrated apparatus that combines three classical tests of anxiety, the open field, elevated plus maze (EPM) and light/dark box.


Mice from four different strains (CD-1, BALB/cJ, DBA/2J, C57BL/6J) were used in a series of five experiments where their behaviour was observed for 15 min in the integrated apparatus. Responses to anxiety-modulating drugs and 2-day repeated testing were evaluated.


CD-1 mice explored the apparatus thoroughly, providing measures from all areas throughout the entire testing session. Factor analysis showed that measures of locomotion and anxiety-related behaviour were dissociable. BALB/cJ, DBA/2J and C57BL/6J showed markedly different behavioural profiles, largely consistent with previous studies examining individual tests. Avoidance of aversive environments did not increase with repeated testing. In CD-1 mice, the anxiolytics diazepam and alprazolam (4 and 2 mg/kg, respectively) increased the approach towards the EPM open arms. Alprazolam also had sedative effects, whereas the anxiogenic pentylenetetrazole had no effects.


These findings suggest that the triple test is sensitive to genetic/pharmacological influences on anxiety and locomotion and that, by providing quasi-simultaneous measures from three different apparatuses, it may represent an alternative to the use of test batteries.


Anxiety Behavioural test Mice Open field Elevated plus maze Light/dark box Strain differences Phenotyping 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Leanne M. Fraser
    • 1
  • Richard E. Brown
    • 1
  • Ahmed Hussin
    • 1
  • Mara Fontana
    • 1
  • Ashley Whittaker
    • 1
  • Timothy P. O’Leary
    • 1
  • Lauren Lederle
    • 2
  • Andrew Holmes
    • 2
  • André Ramos
    • 3
  1. 1.Psychology Department and Neuroscience InstituteDalhousie UniversityHalifaxCanada
  2. 2.Section on Behavioral Science and Genetics, Laboratory for Integrative NeuroscienceNational Institute on Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse, NIHRockvilleUSA
  3. 3.Laboratório de Genética do Comportamento, Departamento de Biologia Celular, Embriologia e GenéticaUniversidade Federal de Santa CatarinaFlorianópolisBrazil

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