Unleashing the potential of studying the correlations between ultrasonic vocalizations and behaviour in rats

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Burke, Candace J.
University of Lethbridge. Faculty of Arts and Science
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Lethbridge, Alta. : Universtiy of Lethbridge, Department of Neuroscience
This thesis explores how rats use various categories of ultrasonic vocalizations in social contexts. In the first study male juvenile rats were socially isolated and trained to anticipate play with a conspecific. During the anticipatory period the rats emitted a high frequency of 50-kHz ultrasonic vocalizations. Further, the 50-kHz vocalizations emitted were tightly linked to active behaviours while the rats anticipated conspecifics. The next two studies focused on social interaction between devocalized and vocal animals paired with intact animals in both juveniles and adults. These studies demonstrated a close linkage between active social behaviours and specific categories of vocalizations at both ages. Among juveniles trills seem important for soliciting playful interactions and in adulthood, flat type calls appear to be especially critical for preventing playful interactions from escalating to serious fighting. Thus, different categories of calls may have different communicatory functions. These novel findings provide new insights into the social interactions of rats, which may be applied to developing more sensitive rodent models for studying depression, autism and other pathologies that affect social behaviour.
behaviour , communication , neuroscience , rat , ultrasonic vocalizations