Development of social vocalizations in mice

J. M S Grimsley, J. J M Monaghan, Jeffrey J. Wenstrup

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137 Citations (Scopus)
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Adult mice are highly vocal animals, with both males and females vocalizing in same sex and cross sex social encounters. Mouse pups are also highly vocal, producing isolation vocalizations when they are cold or removed from the nest. This study examined patterns in the development of pup isolation vocalizations, and compared these to adult vocalizations. In three litters of CBA/CaJ mice, we recorded isolation vocalizations at ages postnatal day 5 (p5), p7, p9, p11, and p13. Adult vocalizations were obtained in a variety of social situations. Altogether, 28,384 discrete vocal signals were recorded using high-frequency-sensitive equipment and analyzed for syllable type, spectral and temporal features, and the temporal sequencing within bouts. We found that pups produced all but one of the 11 syllable types recorded from adults. The proportions of syllable types changed developmentally, but even the youngest pups produced complex syllables with frequency-time variations. When all syllable types were pooled together for analysis, changes in the peak frequency or the duration of syllables were small, although significant, from p5 through p13. However, individual syllable types showed different, large patterns of change over development, requiring analysis of each syllable type separately. Most adult syllables were substantially lower in frequency and shorter in duration. As pups aged, the complexity of vocal bouts increased, with a greater tendency to switch between syllable types. Vocal bouts from older animals, p13 and adult, had significantly more sequential structure than those from younger mice. Overall, these results demonstrate substantial changes in social vocalizations with age. Future studies are required to identify whether these changes result from developmental processes affecting the vocal tract or control of vocalization, or from vocal learning. To provide a tool for further research, we developed a MATLAB program that generates bouts of vocalizations that correspond to mice of different ages.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere17460
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2011
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2011. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.

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