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Physiol Behav. 2001 Jan;72(1-2):99-106.

Influence of circadian phase and test illumination on pre-clinical models of anxiety.

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Department of Psychology, University College London, Gower Street, London WC1E 6BT, UK.


Pre-clinical models of anxiety, particularly the elevated plus-maze (EPM), have been shown to be sensitive to a variety of methodological variations. Recent research has implicated circadian phase of testing in influencing the behavioural profile of 5-HT(1A) ligands on the EPM. The present study investigated the effects of testing animals during the dark and light phases and in light and subjective dark test conditions on baseline behaviour in animal models of anxiety. Eighty singly housed male Sprague-Dawley rats were exposed to a battery of unconditioned, exploratory tests (EPM, open field arena, holeboard) and a new model of extreme anxiety, the unstable elevated exposed plus-maze (UEEPM). Circadian phase of testing failed to consistently alter behaviour on any model. Level of test illumination had no effect on subjects' response to the open field arena, holeboard or UEEPM. Dark testing increased locomotor activity on the EPM (total arm entries, closed arm entries and distance moved) without decreasing open-arm avoidance. The construct of anxiety as measured by a number of different paradigms withstood major intra-laboratory manipulation of circadian phase of testing and illumination of apparatus. It is suggested that the effects of circadian rhythmicity may be confined to the behavioural profiles of serotonergic, particularly 5-HT(1A), ligands on the EPM.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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