Taurine has a variety of actions in the body such as cardiotonic, host-defensive, radioprotective and glucose-regulatory effects. However, its action in the central nervous system remains to be characterized. In the present study, we tested to see whether taurine exerts anti-anxiety effects and to explore its mechanism of anti-anxiety activity in vivo. The staircase test and elevated plus maze test were performed to test the anti-anxiety action of taurine. Convulsions induced by strychnine, picrotoxin, yohimbine and isoniazid were tested to explore the mechanism of anti-anxiety activity of taurine. The Rotarod test was performed to test muscle relaxant activity and the passive avoidance test was carried out to test memory activity in response to taurine. Taurine (200 mg/kg, p.o.) significantly reduced rearing numbers in the staircase test while it increased the time spent in the open arms as well as the number of entries to the open arms in the elevated plus maze test, suggesting that it has a significant anti-anxiety activity. Taurine's action could be due to its binding to and activating of strychnine-sensitive glycine receptor in vivo as it inhibited convulsion caused by strychnine; however, it has little effect on picrotoxin-induced convulsion, suggesting its anti-anxiety activity may not be linked to GABA receptor. It did not alter memory function and muscle activity. Taken together, these results suggest that taurine could be beneficial for the control of anxiety in the clinical situations. Copyright (c) 2007 S. Karger AG, Basel.