UNIT 5.8 Rodent Models of Depression: Forced Swim and Tail Suspension Behavioral Despair Tests in Rats and Mice

  1. Vincent Castagné,
  2. Paul Moser,
  3. Sylvain Roux,
  4. Roger D. Porsolt

Published Online: 1 JUN 2010

DOI: 10.1002/0471141755.ph0508s49

Current Protocols in Pharmacology

Current Protocols in Pharmacology

How to Cite

Castagné, V., Moser, P., Roux, S. and Porsolt, R. D. 2010. Rodent Models of Depression: Forced Swim and Tail Suspension Behavioral Despair Tests in Rats and Mice. Current Protocols in Pharmacology. 49:5.8:5.8.1–5.8.14.

Author Information

  1. Porsolt & Partners Pharmacology, Boulogne-Billancourt, France

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 1 JUN 2010
  2. Published Print: JUN 2010


The development of antidepressants requires simple rodent behavioral tests for initial screening before undertaking more complex preclinical tests and clinical evaluation. Presented in the unit are two widely used screening tests used for antidepressants, the forced swim (also termed behavioral despair) test in the rat and mouse, and the tail suspension test in the mouse. These tests have good predictive validity and allow rapid and economical detection of substances with potential antidepressant-like activity. The behavioral despair and the tail suspension tests are based on the same principle: measurement of the duration of immobility when rodents are exposed to an inescapable situation. The majority of clinically used antidepressants decrease the duration of immobility. Antidepressants also increase the latency to immobility, and this additional measure can increase the sensitivity of the behavioral despair test in the mouse for certain classes of antidepressant. Testing of new substances in the behavioral despair and tail suspension tests allows a simple assessment of their potential antidepressant activity by the measurement of their effect on immobility. Curr. Protoc. Pharmacol. 49:5.8.1-5.8.14. © 2010 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc.


  • animal models;
  • antidepressants;
  • behavior;
  • depression;
  • mice;
  • rats