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Behav Brain Res. 2001 Aug 1;122(2):159-67.

Prior test experience compromises the anxiolytic efficacy of chlordiazepoxide in the mouse light/dark exploration test.

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Ethopharmacology Laboratory, School of Psychology, University of Leeds, Leeds LS2 9JT, UK.


It is now well established that prior test experience can alter behavioural baselines and attenuate/abolish the anxiolytic efficacy of benzodiazepines in the elevated plus-maze paradigm. In view of evidence that different models of anxiety measure qualitatively distinct forms of anxiety-like behaviour, it is important to establish whether the effects of prior experience extend to other widely-used tests. The present study assessed the behavioural and pharmacological sequelae of a single undrugged prior exposure to the light/dark exploration (L/D) test in mice, using ethological scoring methods. One group of adult male Swiss-Webster mice was given a single undrugged exposure to the L/D test 24 h prior to drug testing, while another group was completely naïve to the apparatus. On test day, half the animals in each experiential condition were treated with saline and half with an anxiolytic dose (10 mg/kg) of chlordiazepoxide (CDP). When administered to test-naïve animals, CDP induced a clear reduction in anxiety-like behaviour as evidenced by significant increases in exploration of the light compartment (line crossings, % line crossings, and % time) as well as reductions in stretched attend postures (SAPs) and the proportion of SAPs displayed toward the light compartment. The behavioural specificity of these effects was confirmed by the absence of a drug effect on line crossings in the dark compartment, total rearing and grooming. In complete contrast, with the sole exception of a decrease in total SAPs, CDP was without significant behavioural effect in test-experienced mice. As prior test experience did not significantly alter behavioural baselines in the L/D test, a second experiment was designed to investigate the possibility that handling/intraperitoneal injection may have precluded detection of experientially-induced changes in baseline behaviour. Results showed that handling/injection had no effect upon L/D behavioural profiles in either test-naïve or test-experienced subjects, and confirmed that prior experience itself did not modify the primary indices of anxiety in this test. Present data indicate that prior test experience seriously compromises the anxiolytic efficacy of CDP (10 mg/kg) in the mouse L/D test and, together with recent findings in the four-plate test, appear to confirm that an experientially-induced reduction in sensitivity to the anxiolytic effects of benzodiazepines is by no means unique to the elevated plus-maze.

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