Active avoidance test

Related Panlab Integrated Solutions
Related links


In the active avoidance paradigm, subjects learn to avoid an aversive stimulus by initiating a specific locomotor response.

In this task, animals are placed in a two-compartment shuttle box and have to learn the association between a conditioned stimulus (CS, e.g. light) and an unconditioned stimulus (US, e.g. footshock). 

- Conditioned response/Avoidance

Subjects give a conditioned response when they avoid receiving the shock, by moving to the opposite compartment during the CS presentation (avoidance response).

- Unconditioned response/Escape

If animals do not act, footshock is delivered, but can be escaped by moving to the opposite compartment (escape response).

This test is also used for assessing depressive-like symptoms in animals involved in a “learned helplessness procedure”. In this context, the use of a previous inescapable shock session has profound and long-lasting disruptive effects on the ability of the animals to learn to escape shocks. This escape deficit can be prevented by administering antidepressants.


Related Panlab Integrated Solutions

SHUTTLE BOX (Panlab) + SHUTAVOID - (n) subjects

Recommended for running several active avoidance test in several animals at the same time and for using the same box for active and passive avoidance tests. More economical solution than to buy (n) Shuttle boxes with (n) LE2708 programmers. Of course, a computer is needed here.

The great advantages of using the SHUTAVOID software are:

- (1) the software allows easily creating, stocking and selecting a great variety of protocols for the active and passive avoidance procedures and,
- (2) the analysis section of the software provides total data for the experiment and detailed data for each trials of the experiments (response type, response latencies…). 


SHUTTLE BOX + PACKWIN – customizable solution (Panlab)

Only for specific request needing higher protocol configuration flexibility than standard solutions described above. This option allows (1) the control of the stimuli and shock independently from the animal position, (2) yoked procedures, (3) free data report edition. Ask for more details.


Whether the SHUTTLE boxes are also aimed to be used for passive avoidance test, other accessories are needed (guillotine doors, white panels…), see Passive avoidance test.




Related links

Internet information sources

  • Avoidance conditioning – Indiana University - link 
  • Active avoidance - Encyclopedia of Psychopharmacology (2010) - link 
  • Active avoidance protocols example in mice – Johns Hopkins University – link 


Reasons for choosing this test

  • Associative learning (operant conditioning), short- and long-term memory
  • Provides procedures for testing acquisition, consolidation and retention processes
  • Gives index of learning progression (evolution curves of performances)
  • Standard test for phenotyping
  • Does not require prior food deprivation
  • Sensitive for both rats and mice

Reasons for not choosing this test

  • Requires footshock administration (stressful)
  • Fear and anxiety influence avoidance (also used as a model of anxiety)
  • Change in pain sensitivity can interfere with footshock perception
  • Locomotor activity alterations can interfere with avoidance/escape responses


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