Animal models of depression: What can they teach us about the human disease?

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82 Scopus citations


Depression is apparently the most common psychiatric disease among the mood disorders affecting about 10% of the adult population. The etiology and pathogenesis of depression are still poorly understood. Hence, as for most human diseases, animal models can help us understand the pathogenesis of depression and, more importantly, may facilitate the search for therapy. In this review we first describe the more common tests used for the evaluation of depressive-like symptoms in rodents. Then we describe different models of depression and discuss their strengths and weaknesses. These models can be divided into several categories: genetic models, models induced by mental acute and chronic stressful situations caused by environmental manipulations (i.e., learned helplessness in rats/mice), models induced by changes in brain neuro-transmitters or by specific brain injuries and models induced by pharmacological tools. In spite of the fact that none of the models completely resembles human depression, most animal models are relevant since they mimic many of the features observed in the human situation and may serve as a powerful tool for the study of the etiology, pathogenesis and treatment of depression, especially since only few patients respond to acute treatment. Relevance increases by the fact that human depression also has different facets and many possible etiologies and therapies.

Original languageEnglish
Article number123
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2021


  • Animal models
  • Anxiety
  • Behavioral tests
  • Chronic and acute stress
  • Depression
  • Social behavior


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