Anxiety and the Problem of “Inattentive” Animals in Water Maze Tests

Nina A. Bondarenko

Foundation “Development of the pharmacology of emotional stress”, Krasnogorsk, Moscow region, Russia


Some reports have described the low reactivity of rats to a water-escape platform during their initial exposition to the Morris water maze or Cincinnati water maze, which impedes task acquisition. To assess the attention of rats to tactile stimuli, we measured the paw tactile reactivity in rats exposed to the original water “Extrapolation Escape Task” (EET). In this test, a rat tries to dive to escape from a plastic cylinder immersed into a water tank. Only rats with high trait anxiety demonstrated tactile neglect after their initial exposition to that water locomotion task. Previous EET training, but not novelty, motivation, the physical factors of water immersion, exercise or stress influence that effect. We propose that there is a distractor effect of the difficult diving task on ordinary tactile oriented behavior in anxious rats.

Keyword: rat, Extrapolation Escape Task, tactile sensory stimulation, locomotion task, оrienting behavior, attention, distractors, anxiety

Article language: English

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The video clips show typical behavior of jumping rats (JR; Videos 1 and 2) and non-jumping rats (NJR; Videos 3 and 4) in the “Extrapolation Escape Task” (EET) test. In the EET, a rat is placed for up to two minutes inside a cylinder with a diameter of 10 cm, the lower edge of which is lowered into the water (24°C) to a depth of 2.5 cm. The height of the water column is 25 cm. in a water tank with a 60 cm diameter. After water immersion, some rats (“jumping rats”; JR) try to jump on the wall of the cylinder. A rat rests against its front paws in the cylinder wall and makes synchronous strokes with the hind legs. The movement resembles a run at a gallop. With each jump the head of the animal is raised at least 3 cm. But the cylinder has a high wall and the jumping behavior is ineffective. The rats then dive under the water to escape from the cylinder. Some rats (“non-jumping rats”; NJR) dive without preliminary jumping.

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АРА Style:

Bondarenko N.A. (2017). Anxiety and the problem of “inattentive” animals in water maze tests. The Russian Journal of Cognitive Science, 4(4), 45–51.


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Article 'Anxiety and the Problem of “Inattentive” Animals in Water Maze Tests' by Nina A. Bondarenko is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

ISSN 2313-4518
Russian mass media certificate: ЭЛ № ФС 77 – 57220