Time to abolish the forced swim test in rats for depression research?

Constança Carvalho, Kathrin Herrmann, Tiago A. Marques, Andrew Knight

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The forced swim test (FST) is a controversial rodent test that has been used for decades, mainly in depression studies. The severity of the procedure makes it ethically questionable and its validity has also been questioned. In this paper we contribute new data to this debate. We identified original research papers related to Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), using rats as models. We compared the citations received by studies that used the FST and by studies that did not, within subsequent human medical papers. The results show that the number of citations received by both groups was very low, but in the papers describing the FST data the median citation number was zero. Citation analysis indicates that the FST is not contributing significantly to the understanding or cure of MDD. We briefly review other approaches that overcome the ethical limitations of the FST, and which might also surpass its efficacy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)170-178
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Applied Animal Ethics Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 20 Dec 2021


  • Alternatives to animal use
  • 3Rs
  • Depression
  • Forced swim test
  • Rat
  • In vitro
  • In silico


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