Individual differences in the elevated plus-maze and the forced swim test

Behav Processes. 2011 Jan;86(1):46-51. doi: 10.1016/j.beproc.2010.08.008. Epub 2010 Sep 8.


The elevated plus-maze is an apparatus composed of enclosed and open (elevated) arms and time spent in the open arms by a rat can be increased/decreased by anxiolytic/anxiogenic agents. In the forced swim test, floating behavior is used as an index of behavioral despair and can be decreased by antidepressant agents. As the comorbidity between anxiety and depression is a remarkable issue in human behavioral disorders, a possible relationship between the behaviors seen in the cited tests is of great relevance. In the present study, fifty-four male rats (Rattus norvegicus) were submitted to a plus-maze session and to a 2-day forced swim protocol. According to their time in the open arms, they were divided into three groups: Low Open, Medium Open and High Open. Some plus-maze measures were found to be coherent with time in the open arms and are suggested to also be reliable anxiety indexes. In the forced swim test, the Low Open group showed decreases in floating duration from forced swim Session 1 to Session 2, an alteration opposite to that observed in the other groups (particularly, the Medium Open group). The Low Open group also showed increases in floating latency, again in sharp contrast with the alteration found in the other groups. Accordingly, positive and negative correlation were found between time in the open arms and floating duration and latency, respectively. Results are compared to previous studies and mediation of the effect by reactivity to aversive stimulation or alterations induced by open arm exposure is discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anxiety / psychology*
  • Depression / psychology*
  • Exploratory Behavior / physiology
  • Individuality*
  • Male
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Swimming / psychology*