The Flinders Sensitive Line rat: A selectively bred putative animal model of depression

David H. Overstreet, Elliot Friedman, Aleksander A. Mathé, Gal Yadid

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


The Flinders Sensitive Line (FSL) rats were originally selectively bred for increased responses to an anticholinesterase agent. The FSL rat partially resembles depressed individuals because it exhibits reduced appetite and psychomotor function but exhibits normal hedonic responses and cognitive function. The FSL rat also exhibits sleep and immune abnormalities that are observed in depressed individuals. Neurochemical and/or pharmacological evidence suggests that the FSL rat exhibits changes consistent with the cholinergic, serotonergic, dopaminergic, NPY, and circadian rhythm models but not the noradrenergic, HPA axis or GABAergic models of depression. However, evidence for the genetic basis of these changes is lacking and it remains to be determined which, if any, of the neurochemical changes are primary to the behavioral alterations. The FSL rat model has been very useful as a screen for antidepressants because known antidepressants reduced swim test immobility when given chronically and psychomotor stimulants did not. Furthermore, rolipram and a melatonin agonist were shown to have anti-immobility effects in the FSL rats and later to have antidepressant effects in humans. Thus, the FSL rat model of depression exhibits some behavioral, neurochemical, and pharmacological features that have been reported in depressed individuals and has been very effective in detecting antidepressants.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)739-759
Number of pages21
JournalNeuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews
Issue number4-5
StatePublished - 2005


  • Decreased appetite
  • Elevated REM sleep
  • Forced swim test
  • Neurotransmitter changes
  • Novel antidepressants
  • SSRIs
  • The FSL rat model of depression
  • tricyclics


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