Assessment of antinociceptive drug effects in the presence of impaired motor performance

John L. Plummer, Patricia L. Cmielewski, Geoffrey K. Gourlay, Harry Owen, Michael J. Cousins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Citations (Scopus)


The hot-plate (HP) and tail-flick (TF) tests are widely used to assess analgesic activity of drugs. These tests do not directly measure the intensity of the noxious stimulus perceived by the animal, but only the animal's response to it, and so may be affected by non-analgesic drugs. Sedatives and muscle relaxants, for example, may impair the ability to respond and hence be wrongly considered to have analgesic activity. We examined response of rats in the HP (55°C, cutoff time 25 sec) and TF (cutoff time 5 sec) tests following administration of pentobarbitone, diazepam or pancuronium. These drugs all impaired motor performance as assessed by reduction in mean rotarod performance times to 6-32% of predrug values. However, HP and TF latencies were not appreciably prolonged. We also found that pancuronium did not alter effects of morphine on HP or TF latencies, despite reduction in rotarod performance to 38% of predrug values. Our results support the validity of HP and TF tests as analgesic assays even in the presence of substantial impairment of motor performance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)79-87
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Pharmacological Methods
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Aug 1991
Externally publishedYes


  • Analgesic assays
  • Hot-plate test
  • Rotarod test
  • Tail-flick test

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