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J Neurosci Methods. 2005 Apr 30;143(2):169-77. Epub 2004 Nov 26.

The grooming analysis algorithm discriminates between different levels of anxiety in rats: potential utility for neurobehavioural stress research.

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  • 1Department of Anatomy of the Medical School, Department of Clinical Chemistry of the University Hospital, University of Tampere, Finland.


Stress has long been known to affect grooming in rodent species, altering both its activity measures and behavioural microstructure. Since stress disturbs a general pattern of self-grooming uninterrupted cephalocaudal progression, the grooming analysis algorithm (Kalueff and Tuohimaa, Brain Res. Protocols, 2004; 15: 151-8) was previously designed for mice to enable the detection of stress by measuring alterations in grooming microstructure in different test situations. Since mice and rats are known to differ in their behaviours, including grooming, the aim of the current study was to test our approach in rats and evaluate the utility of this method for differentiation between high- and low-stress situations. For this, we have developed the rat grooming analysis algorithm (based on ethological analysis of incorrect transitions contrary to the cephalocaudal rule, interrupted grooming activity and the assessment of the regional distribution of grooming) and applied this algorithm to the light-exposed (high stress) and dark-exposed (low stress) groups of rats. Here, we show that the percentage of 'incorrect' transitions between different grooming patterns, the percentage of interrupted grooming bouts and altered regional distribution of grooming (less caudal grooming, more rostral grooming) may be used as behavioural markers of stress in rats. Our results suggest that this method can be a useful tool in neurobehavioural stress research including modelling stress-evoked states, psychopharmacological or behavioural neurogenetics research in rats.

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