Abstract: A growing body of evidence has pointed to the blockade of the N‐methyl‐d‐aspartate (NMDA) receptor signaling as a potential therapeutic target for the treatment of major depression. The present study was aimed to evaluate behavioural and molecular effects of the chronic treatment with ketamine and imipramine in rats. To this aim, rats were 14 days treated once a day with ketamine (5, 10 and 15 mg/kg) and imipramine (10, 20 and 30 mg/kg) and then subjected to the forced swimming and open‐field tests. Ketamine and imipramine, at the all doses tested, reduced immobility time, and increased both climbing and swimming time of rats compared to the saline group, without affecting spontaneous locomotor activity. Brain‐derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) hippocampal levels were assessed in imipramine‐ and ketamine‐treated rats by ELISA sandwich assay. Chronic administration of both drugs, ketamine and imipramine, did not modify BDNF protein levels in the rat hippocampus. In conclusion, our findings demonstrate for the first time that chronic administration of acute inactive doses of ketamine (5 mg/kg) becomes active after chronic treatment, while no signs of tolerance to the behavioural effects of ketamine were observed after chronic administration of acute active doses (10 and 15 mg/kg). Finally, these findings further support the hypothesis that NMDA receptor could be a new pharmacological target for the treatment of mood disorders.