Repeated forced-swimming test in intact female rats: behaviour, oestrous cycle and enriched environment

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Abstract

Psychopharmacology used animal models to study the effects of drugs on brain and behaviour. The repeated forced-swimming test (rFST), which is used to assess the gradual effects of antidepressants on rat behaviour, was standardized only in males. Because of the known sex differences in rats, experimental conditions standardized for males may not apply to female rats. Therefore, the present work aimed to standardize experimental and housing conditions for the rFST in female rats. Young or adult Wistar female rats were housed in standard or enriched environments for different experimental periods. As assessed in tested and nontested females, all rats had reached sexual maturity by the time behavioural testing occurred. The rFST consisted of a 15-min session of forced swimming (pretest), followed by 5-min sessions at 1 (test), 7 (retest 1) and 14 days (retest 2) later. The oestrous cycle was registered immediately before every behavioural session. All sessions were videotaped for further analysis. The immobility time of female rats remained similar over the different sessions of rFST independent of the age, the phase of the oestrous cycle or the housing conditions. These data indicate that rFST in female Wistar rats may be reproducible in different experimental conditions.

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