The Mouse Defense Test Battery: pharmacological and behavioral assays for anxiety and panic

Eur J Pharmacol. 2003 Feb 28;463(1-3):97-116. doi: 10.1016/s0014-2999(03)01276-7.


The Mouse Defense Test Battery was developed from tests of defensive behaviors in rats, reflecting earlier studies of both acute and chronic responses of laboratory and wild rodents to threatening stimuli and situations. It measures flight, freezing, defensive threat and attack, and risk assessment in response to an unconditioned predator stimulus, as well as pretest activity and postthreat (conditioned) defensiveness to the test context. Factor analyses of these indicate four factors relating to cognitive and emotional aspects of defense, flight, and defensiveness to the test context. In the Mouse Defense Test Battery, GABA(A)-benzodiazepine anxiolytics produce consistent reductions in defensive threat/attack and risk assessment, while panicolytic and panicogenic drugs selectively reduce and enhance, respectively, flight. Effects of GABA(A)-benzodiazepine, serotonin, and neuropeptide ligands in the Mouse Defense Test Battery are reviewed. This review suggests that the Mouse Defense Test Battery is a sensitive and appropriate tool for preclinical evaluation of drugs potentially effective against defense-related disorders such as anxiety and panic.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Anxiety Agents / pharmacology*
  • Anxiety / metabolism
  • Anxiety / psychology*
  • Behavior, Animal / drug effects
  • Conditioning, Classical / drug effects
  • Fear / drug effects
  • Ligands
  • Mice
  • Models, Animal
  • Neuropeptides / metabolism
  • Panic Disorder / metabolism
  • Panic Disorder / psychology*
  • Receptors, GABA-A / metabolism
  • Receptors, Neuropeptide / metabolism
  • Serotonin / metabolism


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