How would publication bias distort the estimated effect size of prototypic antidepressants in the forced swim test?

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HIGHLIGHTSKara et al. (2018) reported a high number of positive results in publications on FST.Excess of positive results may indicate publication bias.Present studies are insufficient to calculate the risk of publication bias.Publication bias may lead to overestimated effects of antidepressant drugs.Future SRMA on FST should estimate several types of bias risk.This commentary aims to discuss the impact of publication bias on the estimated effect of prototypic antidepressants in the forced swim test (FST). A systematic review and meta-analysis (SRMA) recently reported by Kara et al. (2018) showed that selected prototypic antidepressants reduced immobility time of mice in the FST across a variety of experimental designs. Despite differences in the procedures for SRMA, these results resemble the interim data collected by our research group according to a protocol deposited in the Systematic Review Facility ( and Open Science Framework ( Both studies detected a high amount of publications reporting statistically significant results and agreement with the primary hypothesis raising the possibility of publication bias in the field of FST. In our preliminary analysis, no evidence for publication bias was observed. However, the present work was limited to the effects of imipramine (doses ranging from 4 to 64 mg/kg) in different strains of mice. Therefore, more comprehensive studies are required to evaluate the risk of publication bias in the field of basic antidepressant research. We see the need to expand the current preliminary studies to evaluate the risk of publication bias within the preclinical research using the FST. Appraisal of the risk of publication bias may avoid misestimated effects of drugs in the FST providing better bases for the discovery of new antidepressants.

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