Marble burying as compulsive behaviors in male and female mice

Acta Neurobiol Exp (Wars). 2017;77(3):254-260.


Marble burying is considered an, albeit controversial, animal model of the compulsive like behaviors of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Hallmark features of OCD patients are similarities and, more prominent, differences from anxiety disorders, e.g., the absence of sex differences and resistance to spontaneous remission. We report an experiment on marble burying by male and female C57/BL6/N mice. Animals were administered either the classic anxiolytic drug, diazepam, that targets the GABA receptor or a "pure" inhibitor of the serotonin transporter, escitalopram, that has been reported to be particularly effective in OCD. A burying paradigm that more precisely mimics the human condition was used, e.g., testing in the home environment, chronic drug exposure and acknowledging individual differences by pre-selecting for high marble burying. Results were that there were no sex differences in groups treated with drugs or in control mice. Both diazepam and escitalopram decreased numbers of marbles buried compared to vehicle-only controls in the absence of correlated changes in anxiety. Diazepam, however, was more effective than escitalopram in suppressing MB. The conclusion is that along with serotonin, GABA is involved in regulating compulsive behaviors. The marble burying paradigm may prove more useful for pharmacological drugs tests of impulsivity or attention deficit because of the involvement of serotonin and GABA in both disorders.

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Anti-Anxiety Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Behavior, Animal / drug effects*
  • Citalopram / therapeutic use
  • Compulsive Behavior / diagnosis
  • Compulsive Behavior / drug therapy*
  • Compulsive Behavior / physiopathology*
  • Diazepam / therapeutic use
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Female
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Nesting Behavior / drug effects
  • Nesting Behavior / physiology
  • Sex Characteristics*
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid / metabolism


  • Anti-Anxiety Agents
  • Citalopram
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid
  • Diazepam