2 research outputs found

    Listening to your partner: serotonin increases male responsiveness to female vocal signals in mice

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    The context surrounding vocal communication can have a strong influence on how vocal signals are perceived. The serotonergic system is well-positioned for modulating the perception of communication signals according to context, because serotonergic neurons are responsive to social context, influence social behavior, and innervate auditory regions. Animals like lab mice can be excellent models for exploring how serotonin affects the primary neural systems involved in vocal perception, including within central auditory regions like the inferior colliculus (IC). Within the IC, serotonergic activity reflects not only the presence of a conspecific, but also the valence of a given social interaction. To assess whether serotonin can influence the perception of vocal signals in male mice, we manipulated serotonin systemically with an injection of its precursor 5-HTP, and locally in the IC with an infusion of fenfluramine, a serotonin reuptake blocker. Mice then participated in a behavioral assay in which males suppress their ultrasonic vocalizations (USVs) in response to the playback of female broadband vocalizations (BBVs), used in defensive aggression by females when interacting with males. Both 5-HTP and fenfluramine increased the suppression of USVs during BBV playback relative to controls. 5-HTP additionally decreased the baseline production of a specific type of USV and male investigation, but neither drug treatment strongly affected male digging or grooming. These findings show that serotonin modifies behavioral responses to vocal signals in mice, in part by acting in auditory brain regions, and suggest that mouse vocal behavior can serve as a useful model for exploring the mechanisms of context in human communication

    Playback of broadband vocalizations of female mice suppresses male ultrasonic calls.

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    Although male vocalizations during opposite- sex interaction have been heavily studied as sexually selected signals, the understanding of the roles of female vocal signals produced in this context is more limited. During intersexual interactions between mice, males produce a majority of ultrasonic vocalizations (USVs), while females produce a majority of human-audible squeaks, also called broadband vocalizations (BBVs). BBVs may be produced in conjunction with defensive aggression, making it difficult to assess whether males respond to BBVs themselves. To assess the direct effect of BBVs on male behavior, we used a split-cage paradigm in which high rates of male USVs were elicited by female presence on the other side of a barrier, but which precluded extensive male-female contact and the spontaneous production of BBVs. In this paradigm, playback of female BBVs decreased USV production, which recovered after the playback period. Trials in which female vocalizations were prevented by the use of female bedding alone or of anesthetized females as stimuli also showed a decrease in response to BBV playback. No non-vocal behaviors declined during playback, although digging behavior increased. Similar to BBVs, WNs also robustly suppressed USV production, albeit to a significantly larger extent. USVs suppression had two distinct temporal components. When grouped in 5-second bins, USVs interleaved with bursts of stimulus BBVs. USV suppression also adapted to BBV playback on the order of minutes. Adaptation occurred more rapidly in males that were housed individually as opposed to socially for a week prior to testing, suggesting that the adaptation trajectory is sensitive to social experience. These findings suggest the possibility that vocal interaction between male and female mice, with males suppressing USVs in response to BBVs, may influence the dynamics of communicative behavior