The olfactory bulbectomized rat as a model of depression: an update

Pharmacol Ther. 1997;74(3):299-316. doi: 10.1016/s0163-7258(97)00004-1.


The olfactory bulbectomized (OB) rat has been proposed as an animal model of depression. The following behavioural changes have been observed following bilateral olfactory bulbectomy: hyperactivity in an enclosed arena, such as the open-field; enhanced nocturnal hyperactivity in a 24-hr home cage activity monitor; deficits in memory, as shown by passive avoidance behaviour and in the Morris maze and the 8-arm radial maze; increased open arm entries in the elevated plus-maze; and changes in food motivated and conditioned taste aversion behaviour. Alterations in the noradrenergic, serotonergic, cholinergic, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA)ergic and glutamatergic neurotransmitter systems are also associated with olfactory bulbectomy. The variety of immune changes following olfactory bulbectomy includes reduced neutrophil phagocytosis, lymphocyte mitogenesis, lymphocyte number and negative acute phase proteins, increased leucocyte adhesiveness/aggregation, monocyte phagocytosis, neutrophil number and positive acute phase proteins. An enhanced nocturnal secretion of corticosterone is observed in OB rats, which is normally suppressed by dexamethasone. The most commonly employed behavioural indicator of antidepressant activity is attenuation of the OB-related hyperactivity in the open-field. However, many of the other behavioural, neurotransmitter and immune changes have been shown to be attenuated by chronic (but not acute) antidepressant treatment. Tricyclic antidepressants (amitriptyline, desipramine), atypical agents (mianserin), selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (paroxetine, sertraline, fluvoxamine), reversible inhibitors of monoamine oxidase A (moclobemide), as well as putative antidepressants such as 5-hydroxytryptamine1A agonists (zalospirone, ipsapirone), noncompetitive N-methyl-D-aspartate antagonists (MK-801) and triazolobenzodiazepines (alprazolam, adinazolam), have demonstrated antidepressant-like activity in this model. As many of the changes exhibited by the OB rat are qualitatively similar to those observed in depressed patients, it may be concluded that the OB rat is a model of depression and not just a means whereby putative antidepressants may be tested.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antidepressive Agents / therapeutic use
  • Behavior, Animal*
  • Depression / drug therapy
  • Depression / etiology*
  • Depression / physiopathology
  • Disease Models, Animal*
  • Neurotransmitter Agents / pharmacology
  • Olfactory Bulb / physiology*
  • Olfactory Bulb / surgery*
  • Olfactory Pathways / anatomy & histology
  • Rats


  • Antidepressive Agents
  • Neurotransmitter Agents