Skip to main content

The tail suspension test: A new method for screening antidepressants in mice


A novel test procedure for antidepressants was designed in which a mouse is suspended by the tail from a lever, the movements of the animal being recorded. The total duration of the test (6 min) can be divided into periods of agitation and immobility. Several psychotropic drugs were studied: amphetamine, amttriptyline, atropine, desipramine, mianserin, nomifensine and viloxazine. Antidepressant drugs decrease the duration of immobility, as do psychostimulants and atropine. If coupled with measurement of locomotor activity in different conditions, the test can separate the locomotor stimulant doses from antidepressant doses. Diazepam increases the duration of immobility.

The main advantages of this procedure are (1) the use of a simple, objective test situation, (2) the concordance of the results with the validated “behavioral despair” test from Porsolt and, (3) the sensitivity to a wide range of drug doses.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.


  1. Anisman H, Remington G, Sklar LS (1979) Effect of inescapable shock on subsequent escape performance: catecholaminergic and cholinergic mediation of response initiation. Psychopharmacology 61:107–124

    Google Scholar 

  2. Boissier JR, Simon P (1964) Dissociation de deux composantes dans le comportement d'investigation de la souris. Arch Int Pharmacodyn 147:372–387

    Google Scholar 

  3. Hoffman I (1973) 8-amino-2methyl-4phenyl-1,2,3,4-tetrahydroisoquinoline, a new antidepressant. Arzneim Forsch (Drug Res) 23:45–50

    Google Scholar 

  4. Huang YH, Maas JW (1981) d-Amphetamine at low doses suppresses noradrenergic functions. Eur J Pharmacol 75:187–195

    Google Scholar 

  5. Mineka S, Suomi SJ (1978) Social separation in monkeys. Psychol Bull 85:1376–1400

    Google Scholar 

  6. Porsolt RD, Deniel M, Jalfre M (1979) Forced swimming in rats: hypothermia, immobility and the effect of imipramine. Eur J Pharmacol 57:431–436

    Google Scholar 

  7. Porsolt RD (1981) Behavioral despair. In: Enna SJ, Malick JB, Richelson E (eds) Antidepressants: Neurochemical, behavioral and clinical perspectives. Raven Press, New York, pp 121–139

    Google Scholar 

  8. Simon P (1970) Les anxiolytiques, possibilités d'étude chez l'animal. Actualités Pharmacologiques 23:47–48

    Google Scholar 

  9. Stéru L, Thierry B, Chermat R, Simon P (1982) Animal modeling of depression: an ethological approach and its relevance to psychopharmacology. Presented at the 13th CINP Congress, Jerusalem, Israel, June 20–25 (abstract book p 694)

  10. Thierry B, Stéru L, Chermat R, Simon P (1984) Searching-Waiting strategy: a candidate for an evolutionary model of depression? Behav Neural Biol 41:180–189

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Pierre Simon.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Steru, L., Chermat, R., Thierry, B. et al. The tail suspension test: A new method for screening antidepressants in mice. Psychopharmacology 85, 367–370 (1985).

Download citation

Key words

  • Immobility test
  • Antidepressants
  • Screening method
  • Mice