Gain in Translation: Is It Time for Thigmotaxis Studies in Humans?

  • Christian Grillon
    Address correspondence to Christian Grillon, Ph.D., NIMH/MAP, 15K North Drive, Building 15K, Room 113, MSC 2670, Bethesda, MD 20892-2670;
    Section on the Neurobiology of Fear & Anxiety, National Institute of Mental Health, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland
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  • Monique Ernst
    Section on the Neurobiology of Fear & Anxiety, National Institute of Mental Health, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland
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      Animal models have long been used to explore neurobiological substrates of behaviors and to develop treatment for mental illnesses. Although these models have considerably contributed to our understanding of neurobiological processes, they have been overwhelmingly disappointing to date for the drug discovery process, as preclinical models are poor predictors of clinical efficacy. It is largely agreed that many animal models lack cross-species translational validity, and that improvement will depend on maximizing the similarity of the measures of responses across species. Thus, paradigms yielding comparable observed phenomena in both preclinical animal models and human behavior are an important first step in this direction.
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      Linked Article

      • A Human Open Field Test Reveals Thigmotaxis Related to Agoraphobic Fear
        Biological PsychiatryVol. 80Issue 5
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          Thigmotaxis refers to a specific behavior of animals (i.e., to stay close to walls when exploring an open space). Such behavior can be assessed with the open field test (OFT), which is a well-established indicator of animal fear. The detection of similar open field behavior in humans may verify the translational validity of this paradigm. Enhanced thigmotaxis related to anxiety may suggest the relevance of such behavior for anxiety disorders, especially agoraphobia.
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