ABSTRACT

Adult mice emit ultrasonic vocalizations (USVs), sounds above the range of human hearing, during social encounters. While mice alter their vocal emissions between isolated and social contexts, technological impediments have hampered our ability to assess how individual mice vocalize in group social settings. We overcame this challenge by implementing an 8-channel microphone array system, allowing us to determine which mouse emitted individual vocalizations across multiple social contexts. This technology, in conjunction with a new approach for extracting and categorizing a complex, full repertoire of vocalizations, facilitated our ability to directly compare how mice modulate their vocal emissions between isolated, dyadic and group social environments. When comparing vocal emission during isolated and social settings, we found that socializing male mice increase the proportion of vocalizations with turning points in frequency modulation and instantaneous jumps in frequency. Moreover, males change the types of vocalizations emitted between social and isolated contexts. In contrast, there was no difference in male vocal emission between dyadic and group social contexts. Female vocal emission, while predominantly absent in isolation, was also similar during dyadic and group interactions. In particular, there were no differences in the proportion of vocalizations with frequency jumps or turning points. Taken together, the findings lay the groundwork necessary for elucidating the stimuli underlying specific features of vocal emission in mice.

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