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Front Psychiatry. 2011 Oct 24;2:56. doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2011.00056. eCollection 2011.

Development of translational methods in spectral analysis of human infant crying and rat pup ultrasonic vocalizations for early neurobehavioral assessment.

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  • 1Neurodevelopmental Laboratory, Department of Pediatrics, Levine Children's Hospital at Carolinas Medical Center Charlotte, NC, USA.


The purpose of this article is to describe the development of translational methods by which spectrum analysis of human infant crying and rat pup ultrasonic vocalizations (USVs) can be used to assess potentially adverse effects of various prenatal conditions on early neurobehavioral development. The study of human infant crying has resulted in a rich set of measures that has long been used to assess early neurobehavioral insult due to non-optimal prenatal environments, even among seemingly healthy newborn and young infants. In another domain of study, the analysis of rat put USVs has been conducted via paradigms that allow for better experimental control over correlated prenatal conditions that may confound findings and conclusions regarding the effects of specific prenatal experiences. The development of translational methods by which cry vocalizations of both species can be analyzed may provide the opportunity for findings from the two approaches of inquiry to inform one another through their respective strengths. To this end, we present an enhanced taxonomy of a novel set of common measures of cry vocalizations of both human infants and rat pups based on a conceptual framework that emphasizes infant crying as a graded and dynamic acoustic signal. This set includes latency to vocalization onset, duration and repetition rate of expiratory components, duration of inter-vocalization-intervals and spectral features of the sound, including the frequency and amplitude of the fundamental and dominant frequencies. We also present a new set of classifications of rat pup USV waveforms that include qualitative shifts in fundamental frequency, similar to the presence of qualitative shifts in fundamental frequency that have previously been related to insults to neurobehavioral integrity in human infants. Challenges to the development of translational analyses, including the use of different terminologies, methods of recording, and spectral analyses are discussed, as well as descriptions of automated processes, software solutions, and pitfalls.


infant crying; prenatal; rat pup; substance exposure; ultrasonic vocalization

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