Sex and age differences in locomotor and anxiety-like behaviors in rats: From adolescence to adulthood

Dev Psychobiol. 2021 Apr;63(3):496-511. doi: 10.1002/dev.22037. Epub 2020 Oct 13.


Risk-taking behaviors are a primary contributor to elevated adolescent injury and mortality. Locomotor and anxiety-like behaviors in rodents have been used to examine risk-taking. Here, we examined risk-taking behavior (i.e., changes in locomotor and anxiety-like behaviors) from early to late adolescence and adulthood in male and female rats in the open-field (OF) apparatus and the light-dark (LD) test. We also examined whether these behaviors are affected by an early adolescent immune stressor, lipopolysaccharide (LPS). Long-Evans male and female rats were injected with LPS (200 μg/kg) or vehicle control in early adolescence (postnatal day [PND] 30 and 32). Anxiety-like behavior and locomotor activity were measured in early (PND 38-40), late adolescence (PND 50), and adulthood (PND 88 and 98) in the OF and in early adolescence (PND 42) and adulthood (PND 90) in the LD test. Early and late adolescent rats displayed significantly greater locomotor and anxiety-like behaviors than adult rats in the OF and LD test. Sex differences were also found, with adolescent and adult females displaying greater locomotor and anxiety-like behaviors than male rats in the OF and LD tests. LPS administered two times in early adolescence did not have a significant impact on either locomotor or anxiety-like behaviors suggesting minimal impact of the immune stressor.

Keywords: developmental changes; immune activation; lipopolysaccharide; maturation; risk-taking; stress.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anxiety*
  • Female
  • Locomotion
  • Male
  • Rats
  • Rats, Long-Evans
  • Sex Characteristics*
  • Social Behavior