Elevated Plus Maze

Unveiling the Secrets of the Elevated Plus Maze: A Window into Anxiety and Fear


The Elevated Plus Maze (EPM) is a widely used behavioral test in neuroscience research, particularly in the field of anxiety and fear. This maze apparatus is designed to assess the anxiety levels and exploratory behavior of rodents, providing valuable insights into their emotional and cognitive states. In this blog, we will delve into the details of the Elevated Plus Maze, its significance in research, and the key points that make it a powerful tool in studying anxiety-related behaviors.

Key Point 1: Overview of the Elevated Plus Maze

The Elevated Plus Maze consists of a plus-shaped maze elevated above the ground with two closed arms and two open arms. It is made of either Plexiglas or metal, providing a balanced environment for testing rodents. The open arms lack walls, making them more exposed and thereby inducing a greater level of anxiety in the animals. Closed arms, on the other hand, have enclosed walls, providing a sense of security.

Key Point 2: Measuring Anxiety and Exploratory Behavior

The primary goal of using the Elevated Plus Maze is to assess anxiety-related behaviors in rodents. Anxiety is often associated with avoidance of open spaces and elevated heights. Thus, in this maze setup, the rodents face a conflict between their natural aversion to open, elevated areas and their innate curiosity to explore their environment.

Researchers observe various behavioral parameters such as the time spent in open and closed arms, the number of entries into each arm, and the overall mobility of the rodents in order to assess their anxiety levels and exploratory behavior. Typically, higher levels of anxiety are associated with decreased exploration of the open arms.

Key Point 3: Pharmacological and Genetic Studies

The Elevated Plus Maze has become a powerful tool in studying the underlying mechanisms of anxiety-related disorders. It allows researchers to investigate the impact of certain drugs or genetic manipulations on the anxiety levels and fear responses of the rodents.

Pharmacological studies often involve administering anxiolytic drugs to observe if they increase the rodents’ exploration of the open arms, indicating reduced anxiety. Conversely, anxiogenic drugs are used to induce and intensify anxiety-related behaviors in the maze.

Genetic studies focus on mice models with specific gene modifications that are associated with anxiety disorders. By comparing the behavior of genetically modified mice with control mice, researchers gain valuable insights into the molecular and genetic basis of anxiety-related behaviors.

Key Point 4: Translational Significance

Understanding the complex nature of anxiety-related behaviors is crucial for developing effective treatments and interventions for individuals suffering from anxiety disorders. The Elevated Plus Maze serves as a translational bridge between preclinical research and clinical practice.

Studying rodent behavior in the Elevated Plus Maze provides fundamental insights into the neural circuits and signaling pathways involved in anxiety. These findings can pave the way for the development of novel therapeutic strategies and the identification of potential drug targets.


The Elevated Plus Maze is an invaluable tool in assessing anxiety and fear-related behaviors in rodents. Its simplicity, reliability, and high translational potential make it an essential component of anxiety research. By utilizing this maze, scientists are continuously unraveling the mysteries surrounding anxiety disorders, ultimately leading to advancements in clinical interventions and improved quality of life for individuals suffering from anxiety-related conditions.