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Curr Protoc Neurosci. 2016 Apr 8;75:8.35.1-8.35.17. doi: 10.1002/cpns.7.

Studying Socio-Affective Communication in Rats through Playback of Ultrasonic Vocalizations.

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Behavioral Neuroscience, Experimental and Biological Psychology, Philipps-University of Marburg, Marburg, Germany.


Rats are able to produce ultrasonic vocalizations (USVs). Such USVs are an important component of the rat social behavior repertoire and serve distinct communicative functions as socio-affective signals. Depending on the emotional valence of the situation, juvenile and adult rats utter (1) aversive 22-kHz USVs conveying an appeasing and/or alarming function; or (2) appetitive 50-kHz USVs, which act as social contact calls, amongst others. A 50-kHz USV radial maze playback paradigm that allows assessment of the behavioral responses displayed by the recipients in a highly standardized manner has been developed. In this newly developed paradigm, a rat is exposed individually to playback of natural 50-kHz USVs and appropriate acoustic control stimuli using an acoustic presentation system for ultrasound. By this means, it has been consistently shown that 50-kHz USVs lead to social approach behavior in the recipient, supporting the notion that they serve an affiliative function as social contact calls.


alarm call; contact call; playback; social behavior; social motivation; ultrasonic communication; ultrasonic vocalization

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