Sex differences in animal tests of anxiety

Physiol Behav. 1991 Feb;49(2):245-50. doi: 10.1016/0031-9384(91)90039-q.


To explore further the meaning of sexually dimorphic behavior in the open-field test, male and female hooded Lister rats were tested in three tests of anxiety. In the social interaction test, the social interaction scores of the female rats were lower and did not increase as readily following familiarization to the apparatus as those of the male rats. In the elevated plus-maze test, female rats showed a reduced aversion to the open arms compared to male rats; and in a modified Vogel conflict test, the punished licking rates of the female rats were lower than those of the male rats. It is concluded that the behavior of male and female rats differs in these tests, but that firm conclusions concerning sex differences in anxiety levels cannot be made because all three tests did not lead to predictions which were in the same direction. It is also suggested that cautious interpretation is necessary because these tests may measure different variables in male and female rats and they may not be valid tests of anxiety for female rats.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Appetitive Behavior
  • Arousal*
  • Avoidance Learning
  • Exploratory Behavior*
  • Female
  • Male
  • Motor Activity*
  • Orientation
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred Strains
  • Sex Factors
  • Social Behavior*
  • Social Environment*