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Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2009 Apr;33(4):508-15. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2008.08.003. Epub 2008 Aug 13.

Ultrasonic vocalizations: a tool for behavioural phenotyping of mouse models of neurodevelopmental disorders.

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Section of Neurotoxicology and Neuroendocrinology, Department of Cell Biology, Istituto Superiore di Sanità, Viale Regina Elena 299, I-00161 Rome, Italy.


In neonatal mice ultrasonic vocalizations have been studied both as an early communicative behaviour of the pup-mother dyad and as a sign of an aversive affective state. Adult mice of both sexes produce complex ultrasonic vocalization patterns in different experimental/social contexts. Vocalizations are becoming an increasingly valuable assay for behavioural phenotyping throughout the mouse life-span and alterations of the ultrasound patterns have been reported in several mouse models of neurodevelopmental disorders. Here we also show that the modulation of vocalizations by maternal cues (maternal potentiation paradigm) - originally identified and investigated in rats - can be measured in C57BL/6 mouse pups with appropriate modifications of the rat protocol and can likely be applied to mouse behavioural phenotyping. In addition we suggest that a detailed qualitative evaluation of neonatal calls together with analysis of adult mouse vocalization patterns in both sexes in social settings, may lead to a greater understanding of the communication value of vocalizations in mice. Importantly, both neonatal and adult USV altered patterns can be determined during the behavioural phenotyping of mouse models of human neurodevelopmental and neuropsychiatric disorders, starting from those in which deficits in communication are a primary symptom.

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