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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2012 Oct 16;109 Suppl 2:17213-20. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1200705109. Epub 2012 Oct 8.

Critical period for acoustic preference in mice.

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Center for Brain Science, Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA.


Preference behaviors are often established during early life, but the underlying neural circuit mechanisms remain unknown. Adapting a unique nesting behavior assay, we confirmed a "critical period" for developing music preference in C57BL/6 mice. Early music exposure between postnatal days 15 and 24 reversed their innate bias for silent shelter, which typically could not be altered in adulthood. Instead, exposing adult mice treated acutely with valproic acid or carrying a targeted deletion of the Nogo receptor (NgR(-/-)) unmasked a strong plasticity of preference consistent with a reopening of the critical period as seen in other systems. Imaging of cFos expression revealed a prominent neuronal activation in response to the exposed music in the prelimbic and infralimbic medial prefrontal cortex only under conditions of open plasticity. Neither behavioral changes nor selective medial prefrontal cortex activation was observed in response to pure tone exposure, indicating a music-specific effect. Open-field center crossings were increased concomitant with shifts in music preference, suggesting a potential anxiolytic effect. Thus, music may offer both a unique window into the emotional state of mice and a potentially efficient assay for molecular "brakes" on critical period plasticity common to sensory and higher order brain areas.

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