Behavioral phenotyping of mice in pharmacological and toxicological research

Exp Toxicol Pathol. 2003 Jul;55(1):69-83. doi: 10.1078/0940-2993-00301.


The evaluation of behavioral effects is an important component for the in vivo screening of drugs or potentially toxic compounds in mice. Ideally, such screening should be composed of monitoring general health, sensory functions, and motor abilities, right before specific behavioral domains are tested. A rational strategy in the design and procedure of testing as well as an effective composition of different well-established and reproducible behavioral tests can minimize the risk of false positive and false negative results in drug screening. In the present review we describe such basic considerations in planning experiments, selecting strains of mice, and propose groups of behavioral tasks suitable for a reliable detection of differences in specific behavioral domains in mice. Screening of general health and neurophysiologic functions (reflexes, sensory abilities) and motor function (pole test, wire hang test, beam walking, rotarod, accelerod, and footprint) as well as specific hypothesis-guided testing in the behavioral domains of learning and memory (water maze, radial maze, conditioned fear, and avoidance tasks), emotionality (open field, hole board, elevated plus maze, and object exploration), nociception (tail flick, hot plate), psychiatric-like conditions (porsolt swim test, acoustic startle response, and prepulse inhibition), and aggression (isolation-induced aggression, spontaneous aggression, and territorial aggression) are described in further detail. This review is designed to describe a general approach, which increases reliability of behavioral screening. Furthermore, it provides an overview on a selection of specific procedures suitable for but not limited to behavioral screening in pharmacology and toxicology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal* / classification
  • Behavior, Animal* / drug effects
  • Behavior, Animal* / physiology
  • Drug Evaluation, Preclinical / methods*
  • Mice
  • Phenotype*
  • Rats
  • Toxicity Tests / methods*
  • Xenobiotics / toxicity*


  • Xenobiotics