Animal models of anxiety disorders and stress

Braz J Psychiatry. 2013:35 Suppl 2:S101-11. doi: 10.1590/1516-4446-2013-1139.


Anxiety and stress-related disorders are severe psychiatric conditions that affect performance in daily tasks and represent a high cost to public health. The initial observation of Charles Darwin that animals and human beings share similar characteristics in the expression of emotion raise the possibility of studying the mechanisms of psychiatric disorders in other mammals (mainly rodents). The development of animal models of anxiety and stress has helped to identify the pharmacological mechanisms and potential clinical effects of several drugs. Animal models of anxiety are based on conflict situations that can generate opposite motivational states induced by approach-avoidance situations. The present review revisited the main rodent models of anxiety and stress responses used worldwide. Here we defined as "ethological" the tests that assess unlearned/unpunished responses (such as the elevated plus maze, light-dark box, and open field), whereas models that involve learned/punished responses are referred to as "conditioned operant conflict tests" (such as the Vogel conflict test). We also discussed models that involve mainly classical conditioning tests (fear conditioning). Finally, we addressed the main protocols used to induce stress responses in rodents, including psychosocial (social defeat and neonatal isolation stress), physical (restraint stress), and chronic unpredictable stress.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anxiety Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Anxiety Disorders / psychology
  • Disease Models, Animal*
  • Fear / psychology
  • Mice
  • Rats
  • Stress, Psychological / physiopathology*
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology