Sand rats see the light: Short photoperiod induces a depression-like response in a diurnal rodent

Haim Einat*, Noga Kronfeld-Schor, David Eilam

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

91 Scopus citations


The present study examined the effect of simulated change in day length on the behavior of a diurnal rodent, the fat sand rat (a species of gerbil). Animals were housed under a short photoperiod (5/19 light/dark cycle) for 3 weeks and compared with controls living under a 12/12 light/dark cycle. All sand rats then underwent the forced swim test for depression-like behavior, and the open-field test for overall activity. Sand rats exposed to the short photoperiod displayed a significantly earlier sinking in the swim test, but there was no difference between their open-field activity compared with controls. Taking these responses as indicative of depression-like behavior, we suggest that a short photoperiod may induce affective-like changes, and that the sand rat may thus offer an appropriate animal model to explore the effect of photoperiod on normal, and perhaps also abnormal, seasonal mood changes (e.g., SAD), which in humans is a prevalent disorder, with winter depression episodes and spring/summer remissions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)153-157
Number of pages5
JournalBehavioural Brain Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2 Oct 2006


FundersFunder number
Charles E. Smith National Institute for Psychobiology in Israel


    • Animal model
    • Circadian rhythms
    • Forced swim test
    • Photoperiod
    • Psammomys obesus
    • Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)


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