The open field as a paradigm to measure the effects of drugs on anxiety-like behaviors: a review

Eur J Pharmacol. 2003 Feb 28;463(1-3):3-33. doi: 10.1016/s0014-2999(03)01272-x.


The open field is a very popular animal model of anxiety-like behavior. An overview of the literature on the action elicited by effective or putative anxiolytics in animal subjected to this procedure indicates that classical treatments such as benzodiazepine receptor full agonists or 5-HT(1A) receptor full or partial agonists elicit an anxiolytic-like effect in this procedure in most cases (approximately 2/3). However, compounds (triazolobenzodiazepines such as adinazolam and alprazolam, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) that have a different spectrum of therapeutic efficacy in anxiety disorders such as panic attacks, generalized anxiety disorder or obsessive-compulsive disorder were poorly effective as anxiolytics in the open field test, suggesting that this paradigm may not model features of anxiety disorders. The procedure is also relevant for the study of compounds endowed with anxiogenic effects, as such effects were detected after treatments with benzodiazepine receptor inverse agonists or with corticotropin releasing factor (CRF) receptor agonists.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Anxiety Agents / pharmacology*
  • Anxiety / psychology*
  • Behavior, Animal / drug effects*
  • Humans
  • Ligands
  • Models, Animal
  • Receptors, GABA-A / drug effects
  • Receptors, Neuropeptide / drug effects
  • Receptors, Neuropeptide / metabolism
  • Receptors, Serotonin / drug effects
  • Receptors, Serotonin / metabolism
  • Receptors, Serotonin, 5-HT1


  • Anti-Anxiety Agents
  • Ligands
  • Receptors, GABA-A
  • Receptors, Neuropeptide
  • Receptors, Serotonin
  • Receptors, Serotonin, 5-HT1