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Neuropharmacological and physiological validation of a computer-controlled two-compartment black and white box for the assessment of anxiety.

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  • 1Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, Medical College of Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond.


1. The two-compartment black and white box first described by Crawley and Goodwin (1980) has been used to study anti-anxiety properties of drugs but has not been validated. 2. An automated test system and validation of the protocol for the evaluation of compounds with anxiolytic or anxiogenic potential is described. 3. The box is partitioned into black and white sections with an interconnecting opening and is equipped with micro-switch photoelectric controls (light source and photoreceiver) and an interface connected to the menu-driven computer during anxiety testing. 4. Plasma corticosterone levels in naive mice maintained on a reversed L:D cycle was significantly reduced following restricted exposure to the brightly lit white section but not in the red-illuminated black section. 5. The optimal structural configuration in different test situations was found to be a square rather than a round box. 6. Under normal conditions, mice spend about 60% of the time in the dark compartment so that the exploratory activities and time spent in the white section are taken as a measure of anxiety. 7. Compounds examined included the reference anxiolytic diazepam, nicotine, naloxone, MDL 72222, ICS 205 930 and buspirone, all of which increased mouse exploratory activities in the white section. PTZ, beta-CCP, morphine and amphetamine increased exploration in the black compartment and reduced exploration in the white area. 8. Fluphenazine and imipramine had no specific effects on anxiety responding, although the cataleptogenic effect of fluphenazine was apparent. 9. Daily repeated testing was possible with a maximum of up to four trials a week using naive animals during the 5-min test session. 10. The results suggest that the rapid and automated test system for the assessment of changes in measures of anxiety is not only valid for large scale evaluation of compounds but could be used to elucidate mechanisms of drug action and the CNS pathways linked with anxiolysis and/or anxiogenesis.

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