Electric foot shock stress: a useful tool in neuropsychiatric studies

Rev Neurosci. 2015;26(6):655-77. doi: 10.1515/revneuro-2015-0015.


Electric foot shock is a complex stressor with both physical and emotional components. It has been employed as an important tool to develop diverse animal models in the field of psychopharmacology. The electric foot shock paradigm includes acute or chronic exposures of shocks of varying intensity and duration on an electrified grid floor in an electric foot shock apparatus. Research evidence reveals that foot shocks of varying intensity produce behavioral and neurochemical changes reflecting depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in humans. Animals generally do not habituate to foot shocks in comparison to other stressors, including loud noise, bright light, and hot and cold temperatures. Additionally, it offers an experimental advantage of control over intensity and duration; therefore, by varying its application parameters, different disorder models have been created. Electric foot shock fear conditioning-induced ultrasonic vocalization and fear-potentiated startle have been explored to develop models of anxiety and panic. Similarly, fear conditioning in the form of foot shock exposure followed by situational reminders has been used to develop a model of PTSD. Electric foot shock-induced conflict has been explored to develop operant conflict models (Geller-Seifter and Vogel tests), which in turn are pharmacologically validated to screen potential anti-anxiety agents. Inescapable electric shock-induced 'learned helplessness' mimics the symptomology of depression, and this phenomenon has been employed to develop the model of depression. The present review describes the pharmacologically validated models of anxiety, depression, and PTSD involving electric foot shock as an aversive stimulus.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anxiety / physiopathology
  • Depression / physiopathology
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Electroshock*
  • Fear / physiology
  • Humans
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / physiopathology*
  • Stress, Physiological / physiology*
  • Stress, Psychological / physiopathology*