Animal Models of Depression: Molecular Perspectives

  • Vaishnav KrishnanEmail author
  • Eric J. Nestler
Part of the Current Topics in Behavioral Neurosciences book series (CTBN, volume 7)


Much of the current understanding about the pathogenesis of altered mood, impaired concentration and neurovegetative symptoms in major depression has come from animal models. However, because of the unique and complex features of human depression, the generation of valid and insightful depression models has been less straightforward than modeling other disabling diseases like cancer or autoimmune conditions. Today’s popular depression models creatively merge ethologically valid behavioral assays with the latest technological advances in molecular biology and automated video-tracking. This chapter reviews depression assays involving acute stress (e.g., forced swim test), models consisting of prolonged physical or social stress (e.g., social defeat), models of secondary depression, genetic models, and experiments designed to elucidate the mechanisms of antidepressant action. These paradigms are critically evaluated in relation to their ease, validity and replicability, the molecular insights that they have provided, and their capacity to offer the next generation of therapeutics for depression.


Animal models Antidepressants Behavioral testing Depression Resilience Stress Vulnerability 



5-Hydroxytryptamine or serotonin


Brain-derived neurotrophic factor


Corticotropin-releasing factor


Chronic unpredictable stress


Deep brain stimulation


Deoxyribonucleic acid


Electroconvulsive therapy


Forced swim test


Glucocorticoid receptor






Learned helplessness


Serotonin transporter


Tail suspension test


Acknowledgements and Financial Disclosures

Preparation of this review was supported by grants from the National Institute of Mental Health. EJN reports consulting income from Merck Research Laboratories and PsychoGenics, and a research alliance with AstraZeneca.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Departments of Internal Medicine, Psychiatry and NeuroscienceThe University of Texas Southwestern Medical CenterDallasUSA
  2. 2.Fishberg Department of NeuroscienceMount Sinai School of MedicineNew YorkUSA

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