The Forced Swim Test for Depression-Like Behavior in Rodents

  • Ann-Katrin Kraeuter
  • Paul C. Guest
  • Zoltán SarnyaiEmail author
Part of the Methods in Molecular Biology book series (MIMB, volume 1916)


The forced swim test assesses learned helplessness, which is a feature of depression-like behavior in rodents. This test has also been used in testing the efficacy of existing and novel antidepressant drugs. It is based on the natural tendency of rodents to escape from water. Rodents are placed in a cylinder filled with water and the presumption is that those with a depression-like phenotype give up swimming earlier than those that are not depressed. Furthermore, antidepressant drugs reverse this effect. This chapter describes the basic setup and conduction of the test, along with interpretation of the results. It should be emphasized that this test should be conducted as part of a series of behavioral assessments in order to increase the accuracy of the results.

Key words

Animal model Depression Forced swim test Behavior Biomarker Drug screening 


  1. 1.
    Porsolt RD, Le Pichon M, Jalfre M (1977) Depression: a new animal model sensitive to antidepressant treatments. Nature 266(5604):730–732CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Porsolt RD, Bertin A, Jalfre M (1978) “Behavioural despair” in rats and mice: strain differences and the effects of imipramine. Eur J Pharmacol 51:291–294CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Slattery DA, Cryan JF (2012) Using the rat forced swim test to assess antidepressant-like activity in rodents. Nat Protoc 7(6):1009–1014CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Slattery DA, Cryan JF (2014) The ups and downs of modelling mood disorders in rodents. ILAR J 55(2):297–309CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Cryan JF, Mombereau C (2004) In search of a depressed mouse: utility of models for studying depression-related behavior in genetically modified mice. Mol Psychiatry 9(4):326–357CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Nestler EJ, Hyman SE (2010) Animal models of neuropsychiatric disorders. Nat Neurosci 13(10):1161–1169CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Kraeuter AK, Guest PC, Sarnyai Z (2018) Neuropsychiatric sequelae of early nutritional modifications: a beginner’s guide to behavioral analysis. Methods Mol Biol 1735:403–420CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Bogdanova OV, Kanekar S, D'Anci KE, Renshaw PF (2013) Factors influencing behavior in the forced swim test. Physiol Behav 118:227–239CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Willner P, Muscat R, Papp M (1992) Chronic mild stress-induced anhedonia: a realistic animal model of depression. Neurosci Biobehav Rev 16(4):525–534CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Grandjean J, Azzinnari D, Seuwen A, Sigrist H, Seifritz E, Pryce CR et al (2016) Chronic psychosocial stress in mice leads to changes in brain functional connectivity and metabolite levels comparable to human depression. NeuroImage 142:544–552CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Overstreet DH (1993) The Flinders sensitive line rats: a genetic animal model of depression. Neurosci Biobehav Rev 17(1):51–68CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Lazzaretti C, Kincheski GC, Pandolfo P, Krolow R, Toniazzo AP, Arcego DM et al (2016) Neonatal handling causes impulsive behavior and decreased pharmacological response to methylphenidate in male adult wistar rats. J Integr Neurosci 15(1):81–95CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ann-Katrin Kraeuter
    • 1
    • 2
  • Paul C. Guest
    • 3
  • Zoltán Sarnyai
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  1. 1.Laboratory of Psychiatric Neuroscience, Australian Institute of Tropical Health and MedicineJames Cook UniversityTownsvilleAustralia
  2. 2.Discipline of Biomedicine, College of Public Health, Medicine and Veterinary SciencesJames Cook UniversityTownsvilleAustralia
  3. 3.Laboratory of Neuroproteomics, Department of Biochemistry and Tissue Biology, Institute of BiologyUniversity of Campinas (UNICAMP)CampinasBrazil

Personalised recommendations