Sex differences in the elevated plus-maze test and large open field test in adult Wistar rats

Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2021 May;204:173168. doi: 10.1016/j.pbb.2021.173168. Epub 2021 Mar 5.

Abstract

There is a growing need for a better understanding of sex differences in animal models of psychiatric disorders. The elevated plus-maze (EPM) test and large open field (LOF) test are widely used to study anxiety-like behavior in rodents. Our studies explored sex differences in anxiety and activity parameters in the LOF and EPM and determined whether these parameters correlate within and between tests. Drug naïve adult male and female Wistar rats (n = 47/sex) were used for the studies, and the rats were tested for 5 min in the EPM and 10 min in the LOF. The females spent more time on the open arms of the EPM and made more open arms entries than the males. The females also spent more time in the center zone of the LOF and made more center zone entries. The females traveled a greater distance in the LOF and EPM. There was a moderate positive correlation between time on the open arms of the EPM and time in the center zone of the LOF. There was also a moderate positive correlation between open arms entries in the EPM and center zone entries in the LOF. A hierarchical cluster analysis revealed one cluster with LOF parameters, one cluster with EPM parameters, and one cluster with parameters related to the avoidance of open spaces. In conclusion, these findings indicate that female rats display less anxiety-like behavior in the EPM and LOF. Furthermore, there are sex differences for almost all behavioral parameters in these anxiety tests.

Keywords: Anxiety; Dendrogram; Elevated plus-maze; Hierarchical cluster analysis; Open field; Sex.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anxiety / psychology*
  • Behavior, Animal*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Elevated Plus Maze Test*
  • Female
  • Male
  • Maze Learning
  • Motor Activity
  • Open Field Test*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Sex Characteristics