Encyclopedia of Pain

2007 Edition

Tail Flick Test

  • Kjell Hole
  • Arne Tjølsen
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-540-29805-2_4375


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 tail–flick test is an extensively used test of nociception in rats and mice, and is the nociceptive test most frequently used in animals (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 latencyis a measure of the nociceptive sensitivity of the animal, and is prolonged by opioid analgesics, for instance. A spinal transection above the lumbar level does not block the tail–flick response. Thus, in this test, a spinal nociceptive reflex is measured, and pain is not measured directly. Still, this is considered a very useful test of “phasic pain”, both in basic pain research...

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  1. 1.
    Berge O-G, Garcia-Cabrera I, Hole K (1988) Response Latencies in the Tail–Flick Test Depend on Tail Skin Temperature. Neurosci Lett 86:284–288Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Carstens E, Douglass DK (1995) Midbrain Suppression of Limb Withdrawal and Tail–Flick Reflexes in the Rat: Correlates with Descending Inhibition of Sacral Spinal Neurons. J Neurophysiol 73:2179–2194Google Scholar
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    Eide PK, Berge O-G, Tjølsen A, Hole K (1988) Apparent Hyperalgesia in the Mouse Tail–Flick Test due to Increased Tail Skin Temperature after Lesioning of Serotonergic Pathways. Acta Physiol Scand 134:413–420Google Scholar
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    Haws CM, Heinricher MM, Fields HL (1990) α-Adrenergic Receptor Agonists, but not Antagonists, Alter the Tail–Flick Latency when Microinjected into the Rostral Ventromedial Medulla of the Lightly Anesthetized Rat. Brain Res 533:192–195Google Scholar
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    Hole K, Tjølsen A (1993) The Tail–Flick and Formalin Tests in Rodents: Changes in Skin Temperature as a Confounding Factor. Pain 53:247–254Google Scholar
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    Le Bars D, Gozariu M, Cadden SW (2001) Animal Models of Nociception. Pharmacol Rev 53:597–652Google Scholar
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    Milne RJ, Gamble GD (1989) Habituation to Sham Testing Procedures Modifies Tail–Flick Latencies: Effects on Nociception rather than Vasomotor Tone. Pain 39:103–107Google Scholar
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    Roane DS, Bounds JK, Ang C-Y, Adloo AA (1998) Quinpirole-Induced Alterations of Tail Temperature Appear as Hyperalgesia in the Radiant Heat Tail–Flick Test. Pharmacol Biochem Behav 59:77–82Google Scholar
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    Sawamura S, Tomioka T, Hanaoka K (2002) The Importance of Tail Temperature Monitoring during Tail–Flick Test in Evaluating the Antinociceptive Action of Volatile Anesthetics. Acta Anaesthesiol Scand 46:451–454Google Scholar
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    Tjølsen A, Hole K (1992) The Effect of Morphine on Core and Skin Temperature in Rats. NeuroReport 3:512–514Google Scholar
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    Tjølsen A, Lund A, Berge O-G, Hole K (1989) An Improved Method for Tail–Flick Testing with Adjustment for Tail-Skin Temperature. J Neurosci Meth 26:259–265Google Scholar
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    Urban MO, Smith DJ (1994) Nuclei within the Rostral Ventromedial Medulla Mediating Morphine Antinociception from the Periaqueductal Gray. Brain Res 652:9–16Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kjell Hole
    • 1
  • Arne Tjølsen
    • 1
  1. 1.University of BergenBergenNorway