Feeding alcohol to mice, then inducing depression

Depression-related behaviours displayed by female C57BL/6J mice during abstinence from chronic ethanol consumption are rescued by wheel-running, Pang, Terence Y. et al. 2013


The study, conducted by Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health, University of Melbourne, aimed to investigate therapeutic strategies to assist with rehabilitation from chronic alcohol consumption, in order to reduce alcohol-related (abstinence-induced) depression. The study aimed to contribute towards the prevention of co-morbid psychiatric conditions that increase the chance of relapse.


Seventy two female mice, from 8 weeks of age, were allowed to self-administer ethanol solution (alcohol) for six weeks. (Sucrose was used initially to incentivise the ethanol solution). Control mice were only given access to water.

The mice were split into groups: one group for depression-related tests and another for anxiety-related tests.

The six weeks that included ethanol access were followed by two weeks of forced abstinence, where only water was available. A running-wheel was provided to half of the mice in each group during the abstinence period.

After two weeks, the following five behavioural tests were conducted:

– Light-dark box test (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sT-9Vsd-PGo)

– Elevated plus maze test (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UjvnG5BquiM)

– Saccharin preference test (SPT)

– Novelty-suppressed feeding test (NSFT)

– Forced-swim test (FST) (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ObsST8lfCd0)

(For information about the relevancy of these tests, please read Drowning Rats and Human Depression: Positive Psychology for Whom? By Mark Bekoff.)

The authors do not state whether the mice were killed after completion of the study, however this is most likely the case.


The provision of running-wheels through the abstinence period reduced depressive behaviour.


The study is limited by the use of overly assumptive and simplistic tests on another species to inaccurately draw conclusions about humans.

The authors note “depression is a condition that presents with a wide spectrum of symptoms and that the effectiveness of running to correct each possible symptom of depression has yet to be determined.”

They also acknowledge that “it is likely that specific experimental conditions such as animal strain as well as mode or intensity of the exercise may account for the mixed effect of exercise” [emphasis added]. This questions the relevance of how the information can be extrapolated to human conditions.

Furthermore, the conclusions drawn, i.e. the potential value of physical therapy for the treatment of addiction-related neuropsychiatric symptoms, is something that is well-established and has already been comprehensively studied in human clinical trials1,2,3,4,5.

Carek PJ, et al. Exercise for the treatment of depression and anxiety. International Journal Psychiatry in Medicine. 2011. http://www.eims.sg/files/pdfs/Exercise_N_Depression.pdf

Gill A, et al. Does exercise alleviate symptoms of depression? The Journal of Family Practice. 2010;59:530.

Lowry CA, et al. That warm fuzzy feeling: Brain serotonergic neurons and the regulation of emotion. Journal of Psychopharmacology. 2009;23:392.

Mead GE, et al. Exercise for depression. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2012. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22786489

Strohle A. Physical activity, exercise, depression and anxiety disorders. Journal of Neural Transmission. 2009;116:777.

What you can do?

Please write to the following, asking that they no longer fund unscientific animal-based experiments.

Australian Research Council
GPO Box 2702
Canberra 2601
Email: info@arc.gov.au

Prof. Anne Kelso
GPO Box 1421
Canberra, ACT 2601
Email: nhmrc@nhmrc.gov.au


Title: Depression-related behaviours displayed by female C57BL/6J mice during abstinence from chronic ethanol consumption are rescued by wheel-running

Author/s: Terence Y. Pang, Thibault Renoir, Xin Du, Andrew J. Lawrence, and Anthony J. Hannan

Institution: Behavioural Neurosciences Division, Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health, University of Melbourne

Funding Source: National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), ARC, University of Melbourne

Reference: European Journal of Neuroscience, Vol.37, pp.1803-1810, 2013


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