Seed finding in golden hamsters: a potential animal model for screening anxiolytic drugs

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Department of Psychiatry

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Adrenergic alpha-Agonists; Animals; Anti-Anxiety Agents; Antidepressive Agents, Second-Generation; Antidepressive Agents, Tricyclic; Anxiety; Appetitive Behavior; Behavior, Animal; Buspirone; Chlordiazepoxide; Clozapine; Cricetinae; Desipramine; *Drug Evaluation, Preclinical; Fasting; Fluoxetine; Injections, Intraperitoneal; Male; Mesocricetus; *Models, Animal; Stress, Psychological; Yohimbine




Fasting hamsters overnight, followed by temporary isolation in a novel environment are stressful conditions that hamper their ability or motivation to find hidden sunflower seeds when returned to their home environment. Studies were done to test whether treatment with antianxiety drugs would reduce stress and shorten the latency to find the hidden seeds. Prior to testing, the animals were fasted for 18-20 h. Ninety minutes after intraperitoneal injection of test drugs (fluoxetine, buspirone, chlordiazepoxide, clozapine, desipramine, yohimbine), the animals were taken from their home cage and placed into a novel holding cage for 2 min. During their absence, 6 sunflower seeds were buried under the bedding in one corner of their home cage. The animals were placed back into their home cage and timed for their latency to find the seeds in a 5-min observation period. Treatment with anxiolytics caused a dose-dependent reduction in the latency to find the sunflower seed, while treatment with other psychotherapeutics were ineffective. Seed finding is an extremely sensitive bioassay, responding to anxiolytics given in doses as low as 1 microg/kg. These data provide evidence that seed finding in hamsters may serve as an animal model for screening potential anxiolytic drugs.


Neuropsychobiology. 2002;45(3):150-5.

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