Light dark transition test (mice)

The light/dark transition test (LDT) is a widely used protocol for measuring anxiety-like behaviour (Crawley and Goodwin, 1980, Costall et al., 1989; Serchov et al., 2016).

Video of a mouse in the LT unit during a light / dark transition test


Experimental set up

The Zantiks LT system, which provides the environment for testing mice in LDT, consists of a cage (360x270x300mm, W x D x H) that is divided into one small (one third) dark compartment and a large (two thirds) illuminated, light, compartment. A semi circle hole with 50mm radius placed centrally at the bottom of a divider provides the mouse with the option to move between the two compartments.

The lit compartment is illuminated from the light located on top of the cage as well as the screen under the cage. There is no light underneath the dark compartment and there is black lid which covers this area preventing the top light from entering the dark compartment.


Experimental procedure

  1. Transfer the mouse from its home cage to the testing room. It is recommended to wait 30 minutes before the experiment to habituate to the new environment.
  2. Put the mouse in the lit compartment of the cage.
  3. Place the cage inside the system in a way that the dark compartment locates at the back.
  4. Let the mouse move freely between the two compartments for 5 minutes (Costall et al., 1989; Serchov et al., 2016) or 10 minutes (Takao and Miyakawa., 2006).

The Zantiks LT system can provide you with a .csv file containing the results for:

  • The time spent in the lit/dark compartment;
  • The distance travelled in the both compartments;
  • The number of transitions between them.

Results/data output

The figure below shows the results for 5 mice in LDT test using the Zantiks LT unit.

Overall, they show normal exploratory behaviour and do not show bias towards any of the light and dark compartments as indicated by A) number of transitions between compartments, B) time spent in each compartment and C) Distance travelled (pixels) within each compartment.

Data courtesy of Dr. Wei Ba, Department of Life Sciences, Imperial College London

Light Dark Transition Results Mice
Example results data from a light dark transition experiment.


Costall, B., Jones, B. J., Kelly, M. E., Naylor, R. J., & Tomkins, D. M. (1989). Exploration of mice in a black and white test box - validation as a model of anxiety. Pharmacology Biochemical Behavior, 32(3): 777-785.
Crawley, J. & Goodwin, F. K. (1980). Preliminary report of a simple animal behavior model for the anxiolytic effects of benzodiazepines. Pharmacology Biochemical Behavior, 13(2): 167-170.
Serchov, T., van Calker, D., & Biber, K. (2016). Light/Dark Transition Test to Assess Anxiety-like Behavior in Mice. Bio-protocol 6(19): e1957. DOI: 10.21769/BioProtoc.1957.
Takao, K., & Tsuyoshi Miyakawa. “Light/dark transition test for mice.” Journal of visualized experiments:JoVE, 1(104). doi:10.3791/104