The International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology

Trends and Perspectives

Clinical staging: a necessary step in the development of improved animal models of mood disturbance?

Frederick Rohan Walkera1a2 c1, Morgan H Jamesa1a2, Ian B Hickiea3 and Patrick D McGorrya4

a1 School of Biomedical Sciences and Pharmacy, University of Newcastle, Callaghan, NSW, Australia

a2 Centre for Translational Neuroscience and Mental Health Research, Hunter Medical Research Institute, NSW, Australia

a3 Brain and Mind Research Institute, The University of Sydney, Camperdown, NSW, Australia

a4 Department of Psychiatry, ORYGEN Youth Health Research Centre, University of Melbourne, VIC, Australia


Recently, it has been suggested that the clinical staging approach be considered a serious alternative framework for conceptualising mood related psychopathology. The fundamental difference between clinical staging and the now dominant categorical diagnostic framework is that the entire illness trajectory becomes relevant, as opposed to simply the end-stage. The concept of disease trajectory has significant implications for animal models of psychopathology, and particularly for animal models of depression. This article will introduce and discuss the implications of the clinical staging approach for those undertaking research using animal models of mood disturbance.

(Received April 11 2013)

(Reviewed May 13 2013)

(Revised August 26 2013)

(Accepted August 26 2013)

(Online publication October 16 2013)

Key words

  • Animal models of depression;
  • clinical staging;
  • depression;
  • mood disorders


c1 Address for correspondence: Dr F. R. Walker, Room MS306, Medical Sciences Building, University of Newcastle, Callaghan, NSW 2308, Australia. Tel.: +61 2 4921 5012 Fax: +61 2 4921 5141 Email:

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