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Physiol Behav. 1999 Jan 1-15;65(4-5):769-72.

The influence of olfaction on potentiation and inhibition of ultrasonic vocalization of rat pups.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University, New York State Psychiatric Institute, New York 10032, USA.


Twelve-day-old isolated rat pups reduce their rates of ultrasonic vocalization (USV) when an anesthetized adult is placed into the test cage, whether the adult is their dam or an unfamiliar male. USV rates remain very low even after removal of the male (inhibition). However, after removal of the dam, pups greatly increase their rates of USV over their first isolation period (potentiation). USV potentiation can be induced by either an awake, normally behaving dam or by one that is anesthetized. To test the role of olfaction in inhibition and potentiation, PND12 pups were rendered anosmic via intranasal infusion of 5% zinc sulphate (ZnSO4). Control pups were infused with normal saline. After overnight separation from the dam, the USV and other behaviors of pups were recorded during a 6-min test. Each pup was tested during an initial isolation period and a final isolation period. In the first experiment, an anesthetized adult (dam or unfamiliar male) or no companion was placed in contact with the pup during the middle minute. Anosmia prevented both potentiation and inhibition of USV by passive adult contact. Thus, it seems likely that pups use olfactory discrimination as the basis for these two highly differentiated vocal responses to social stimuli. Results from two additional experiments demonstrate that anosmia does not prevent potentiation when the adult dam is active and interacting with the pup on either postnatal day 12 or 8.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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