The marble burying task in mice is a useful model for the study of anxiety, obsessive-compulsive behavior and neophobia. Marble burying behavior gauges the level of anxiety in a mouse when it encounters unfamiliar objects. An acute pre-test administration of an antidepressant reduces the anxiety-like behavior exhibited by the covering of marbles (Millan MJ et al. JPET 298: 581-591, 2009). Clinically effective antidepressants which are active in the model include SSRIs and tricyclics. Although a chronic treatment with an antidepressant is known to alleviate anxiety in the clinic, an acute effect can be anxiogenic until the efficacy is achieved during treatment sessions in the clinic.
An alternative interpretation of marble burying behavior is that it models compulsive behavior in a mouse. In contrast to SSRIs and other drugs like benzodiazepine, anxiolytics only affect marble burying at motor-impairing doses (Witkin JM, Curr Protoc Neurosci. 2008).
Method Description in Brief
Click here to see a diagram outlining an example study paradigm to assess anxiety using the marble burying test.
24 marbles are placed evenly onto the walls of an empty cage. The subject is treated with vehicle or compound 30 minutes before the test. The subject is then placed in the novel cage containing 24 marbles. The number of marbles covered (at least 2/3 of area) is counted and a test cage is photographed.
Compounds like fluoxetine (an SSRI), clomipramine (a tricyclic antidepressant) and 8-OH-DPAT (a 5HT1A receptor agonist) decrease the marble burying behavior.
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