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Dialogues Clin Neurosci. 2011;13(4):495-506.

Animal models of anxiety disorders in rats and mice: some conceptual issues.

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Laboratoire de recherches, Unité de Psychopharmacologie Clinique – HUG, 2, ch. du Petit-Bel-Air, 1225 Genève, Switzerland.


Animal models can certainly be useful to find out more about the biological bases of anxiety disorders and develop new, more efficient pharmacological and/or behavioral treatments. However, many of the current "models of anxiety" in animals do not deal with pathology itself, but only with extreme forms of anxiety which are still in the normal, adaptive range. These models have certainly provided a lot of information on brain and behavioral mechanisms which could be involved in the etiology and physiopathology of anxiety disorders, but are usually not satisfactory when confronted directly with clinical syndromes. Further progress in this field will probably depend on the finding of endophenotypes which can be studied in both humans and animals with common methodological approaches. The emphasis should be on individual differences in vulnerability, which have to be included in animal models. Finally, progress will also depend on refining theoretical constructs from an interdisciplinary perspective, including psychiatry, psychology, behavioral sciences, genetics, and other neurosciences.


animal model; anxiety; coping strategy; defense; threat

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