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Behav Brain Res. 2000 Sep;114(1-2):199-212.

Ethological confirmatory factor analysis of anxiety-like behaviour in the murine elevated plus-maze.

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  • 1School of Psychology, Behavioural Neuroscience, University of Ottawa, Vanier: Room 202, K1N 6N5, Ottawa, Ont., Canada.


The elevated plus-maze has been used in animal research to measure anxiety since 1985 and is currently the most widely used animal model of anxiety. Since this paradigm has been the subject of several principal components analyses, it is well qualified for confirmatory factor analysis research. The current report builds on the substantial theoretical knowledge and empirical data obtained from these structural analyses with a view to obtain further progress in the evolution of our understanding of animal anxiety in the elevated plus-maze. The purpose of the present report was two-fold: (a) to test if the a piori imposition of a 3-factor model, or a competing 2-factor elevated plus-maze model, would fit our sample (n=200 CD-1 mice) data in each of two trials within an inferential confirmatory factor analytic framework; (b) provide a well-fitting model that confers indicator variables that can most effectively and parsimoniously measure underlying constructs of elevated plus-maze behaviour. Multiple model-fitting criteria were used, and issues related to data non-normality, outliers, replicability of the model, sampling error and error of approximation in the estimation of final model fit were addressed. The final 2-factor model, with estimated error covariance between two different pairs of indicator variables, was a good fit on the trial-1 data, although it was necessary to allow unprotected stretch attends to non-significantly cross-load on factor-2. A 2-factor model also fit the trial-2 data from the present analysis, although it was necessary to allow closed arm time ratio to negatively cross-load on factor-1. These results indicate that inferential hypothesis testing and model building procedures within a confirmatory factor analysis framework produces interpretable animal anxiety indices in the elevated plus-maze. Moreover, a 2-factor, rather than a 3-factor model, parsimoniously and unambiguously explained the underlying constructs of anxiety-like mouse behaviour in the elevated plus-maze in the present study. Taken together, a reduction in the growing number of behavioural indices reported in elevated plus-maze pharmacological studies is suggested.

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