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J Vis Exp. 2015 Sep 3;(103). doi: 10.3791/53074.

Determining Ultrasonic Vocalization Preferences in Mice using a Two-choice Playback Test.

Author information

School of Veterinary Medicine, Azabu University.
Kato Acoustics Consulting Office.
Division of Electric and Information Engineering, Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology.
School of Veterinary Medicine, Azabu University;


Mice emit ultrasonic vocalizations (USVs) during a variety of conditions, such as pup isolation and adult social interactions. These USVs differ with age, sex, condition, and genetic background of the emitting animal. Although many studies have characterized these differences, whether receiver mice can discriminate among objectively different USVs and show preferences for particular sound traits remains to be elucidated. To determine whether mice can discriminate between different characteristics of USVs, a playback experiment was developed recently, in which preference responses of mice to two different USVs could be evaluated in the form of a place preference. First, USVs from mice were recorded. Then, the recorded USVs were edited, trimmed accordingly, and exported as stereophonic sound files. Next, the USV amplitudes generated by the two ultrasound emitters used in the experiment were adjusted to the same sound pressure level. Nanocrystalline silicon thermo-acoustic emitters were used to play the USVs back. Finally, to investigate the preference of subject mice to selected USVs, pairs of two differing USV signals were played back simultaneously in a two-choice test box. By repeatedly entering a defined zone near an ultrasound emitter and searching the wire mesh in front of the emitter, the mouse reveals its preference for one sound over another. This model allows comparing the attractiveness of the various features of mouse USVs, in various contexts.

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