Assessment of mouse anxiety-like behavior in the light-dark box and open-field arena: role of equipment and procedure

Physiol Behav. 2014 Jun 22;133:30-8. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2014.05.006. Epub 2014 May 14.


Light-dark box and open field are conventional tests for assessment of anxiety-like behavior in the laboratory mice, based on approach-avoidance conflict. However, except the basic principles, variations in the equipment and procedures are very common. Therefore, contribution of certain methodological issues in different settings was investigated. Three inbred strains (C57BL/6, 129/Sv, DBA/2) and one outbred stock (ICR) of mice were used in the experiments. An effect of initial placement of mice either in the light or dark compartment was studied in the light-dark test. Moreover, two tracking systems were applied - position of the animals was detected either by infrared sensors in square box (1/2 dark) or by videotracking in rectangular box (1/3 dark). Both approaches revealed robust and consistent strain differences in the exploratory behavior. In general, C57BL/6 and ICR mice showed reduced anxiety-like behavior as compared to 129/Sv and DBA/2 strains. However, the latter two strains differed markedly in their behavior. DBA/2 mice displayed high avoidance of the light compartment accompanied by thigmotaxis, whereas the hypoactive 129 mice spent a significant proportion of time in risk-assessment behavior at the opening between two compartments. Starting from the light side increased the time spent in the light compartment and reduced the latency to the first transition. In the open field arena, black floor promoted exploratory behavior - increased time and distance in the center and increased rearing compared to white floor. In conclusion, modifications of the apparatus and procedure had significant effects on approach-avoidance behavior in general whereas the strain rankings remained unaffected.

Keywords: Anxiety-like behavior; Inbred strains; Light–dark box; Mice; Open field.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Anxiety / diagnosis*
  • Anxiety / genetics
  • Anxiety / physiopathology*
  • Body Weight
  • Dark Adaptation / genetics
  • Dark Adaptation / physiology*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Exploratory Behavior / physiology*
  • Female
  • Infrared Rays
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Inbred DBA
  • Mice, Inbred ICR
  • Species Specificity
  • Video Recording*