We studied anxiety and sedative medications in Pharmacology and Dr. Hersh brought up an interesting point: we study these drugs in animal models. He talked about how rats are barred from food to create anxiety. WHAT. I had to look into this.
(Side note: these lectures are unintentionally funny because our professor mimics rats scurrying around on these medications or Michael J. Fox on Parkinson’s disease medication. He’s crawling on the floor and stuff. It’s that guilty laughter… )
How do you make your animal model anxious and/or depressed? (warning: this is kind of distressing for humans too)
- Pit of despair: used by Harry Harlow to isolate monkeys for as long as a year, to cause them to develop depression
- Use a strain of mice that is more depression-prone. (I didn’t know such a thing existed!)
- Separate mice from parents, get them bullied by bigger mice, make them chronically stressed by putting rats close- they’ll think they’re in lethal danger. (This blog post is pretty great)
And how do you measure how depressed your animal is? By exposing them to helpless situations and seeing how long they last before giving up. These helpless situations include:
It looks nothing like this picture. (source)
- Tail suspension test. (This was someone’s genius idea in 1985)… I just can’t include a picture of this here. They are too sad. Mice are literally suspended from a high point with taped tails.
- Open field test: taking advantage of the fact that mice do not like open spaces- exposing them to wide open space and observing their behavior.
I was getting sad reading about this… Then a cute guy in glasses brought over apple donuts and I felt a little bit better.