Spontaneous burrowing behaviour in the rat is reduced by peripheral nerve injury or inflammation associated pain

Eur J Pain. 2012 Apr;16(4):485-95. doi: 10.1016/j.ejpain.2011.07.012.


Pain influences many aspects of daily living and effective analgesics should reinstate normal spontaneous daily behaviours. Experiments are described herein which show that the innate, spontaneous behaviour of burrowing by rats, which can be simply and objectively assessed by measuring the amount of gravel left in a hollow tube 1 h after presentation to the rat, is reduced by peripheral nerve injury (tibial nerve transection (TNT), L5 spinal nerve transection (SNT) and partial sciatic nerve ligation (PSNL)) and also following inflammation induced by intra-plantar injection of Complete Freund's Adjuvant (CFA). Gabapentin (100 mg/kg sc) but not at 30 mg/kg sc significantly reduced burrowing activity in naive rats. All peripheral nerve injuries and CFA reduced burrowing compared with shams and rats naive to surgery. The level of mechanical hypersensitivity in rats with peripheral nerve injury did not correlate with the deficit in burrowing indicating that different parameters of the holistic pain experience are measured in these paradigms. Gabapentin at 30 mg/kg sc, but not 100 mg/kg sc, reversed the deficit in burrowing induced by TNT and ibuprofen (30 mg/kg sc) reversed the effect of CFA on burrowing. These experiments show that measurement of burrowing is a simple, objective assay of innate rodent behaviour affected by pain that is ethologically relevant to the rat, does not rely wholly on evoking a reflex and can dissociate a selective analgesic dose of gabapentin from one inducing motor impairment in the same animal.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amines / pharmacology
  • Analgesics / pharmacology
  • Animals
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / pharmacology
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Cyclohexanecarboxylic Acids / pharmacology
  • Drug Interactions
  • Gabapentin
  • Hyperalgesia / etiology
  • Hyperalgesia / psychology
  • Ibuprofen / pharmacology
  • Inflammation / complications
  • Inflammation / drug therapy
  • Inflammation / psychology*
  • Pain / drug therapy
  • Pain / etiology
  • Pain / psychology*
  • Pain Measurement
  • Peripheral Nerve Injuries / complications
  • Peripheral Nerve Injuries / drug therapy
  • Peripheral Nerve Injuries / psychology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Sciatic Nerve / injuries
  • Social Environment
  • Spinal Nerves / injuries
  • Tibial Nerve / injuries
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid / pharmacology


  • Amines
  • Analgesics
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal
  • Cyclohexanecarboxylic Acids
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid
  • Gabapentin
  • Ibuprofen