Rodent models of post-traumatic stress disorder: behavioral assessment

Alexander Verbitsky, David Dopfel, Nanyin Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

95 Scopus citations


Although the etiology and expression of psychiatric disorders are complex, mammals show biologically preserved behavioral and neurobiological responses to valent stimuli which underlie the use of rodent models of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD is a complex phenotype that is difficult to model in rodents because it is diagnosed by patient interview and influenced by both environmental and genetic factors. However, given that PTSD results from traumatic experiences, rodent models can simulate stress induction and disorder development. By manipulating stress type, intensity, duration, and frequency, preclinical models reflect core PTSD phenotypes, measured through various behavioral assays. Paradigms precipitate the disorder by applying physical, social, and psychological stressors individually or in combination. This review discusses the methods used to trigger and evaluate PTSD-like phenotypes. It highlights studies employing each stress model and evaluates their translational efficacies against DSM-5, validity criteria, and criteria proposed by Yehuda and Antelman’s commentary in 1993. This is intended to aid in paradigm selection by informing readers about rodent models, their benefits to the clinical community, challenges associated with the translational models, and opportunities for future work. To inform PTSD model validity and relevance to human psychopathology, we propose that models incorporate behavioral test batteries, individual differences, sex differences, strain and stock differences, early life stress effects, biomarkers, stringent success criteria for drug development, Research Domain Criteria, technological advances, and cross-species comparisons. We conclude that, despite the challenges, animal studies will be pivotal to advances in understanding PTSD and the neurobiology of stress.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number132
JournalTranslational psychiatry
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Biological Psychiatry


Dive into the research topics of 'Rodent models of post-traumatic stress disorder: behavioral assessment'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this