Link to Pubmed [PMID] – 22238608
PLoS ONE 2012;7(1):e29401
Social interactions in mice are frequently analysed in genetically modified strains in order to get insight of disorders affecting social interactions such as autism spectrum disorders. Different types of social interactions have been described, mostly between females and pups, and between adult males and females. However, we recently showed that social interactions between adult males could also encompass cognitive and motivational features. During social interactions, rodents emit ultrasonic vocalizations (USVs), but it remains unknown if call types are differently used depending of the context and if they are correlated with motivational state. Here, we recorded the calls of adult C57BL/6J male mice in various behavioral conditions, such as social interaction, novelty exploration and restraint stress. We introduced a modulator for the motivational state by comparing males maintained in isolation and males maintained in groups before the experiments. Male mice uttered USVs in all social and non-social situations, and even in a stressful restraint context. They nevertheless emitted the most important number of calls with the largest diversity of call types in social interactions, particularly when showing a high motivation for social contact. For mice maintained in social isolation, the number of calls recorded was positively correlated with the duration of social contacts, and most calls were uttered during contacts between the two mice. This correlation was not observed in mice maintained in groups. These results open the way for a deeper understanding and characterization of acoustic signals associated with social interactions. They can also help evaluating the role of motivational states in the emission of acoustic signals.