Improved cortical entrainment to infant communication calls in mothers compared with virgin mice

Eur J Neurosci. 2006 Jun;23(11):3087-97. doi: 10.1111/j.1460-9568.2006.04840.x.


There is a growing interest in the use of mice as a model system for species-specific communication. In particular, ultrasonic calls emitted by mouse pups communicate distress, and elicit a search and retrieval response from mothers. Behaviorally, mothers prefer and recognize these calls in two-alternative choice tests, in contrast to pup-naïve females that do not have experience with pups. Here, we explored whether one particular acoustic feature that defines these calls-- the repetition rate of calls within a bout-- is represented differently in the auditory cortex of these two animal groups. Multiunit recordings in anesthetized CBA/CaJ mice revealed that: (i) neural entrainment to repeated stimuli extended up to the natural pup call repetition rate (5 Hz) in mothers; but (ii) neurons in naïve females followed repeated stimuli well only at slower repetition rates; and (iii) entrained responses to repeated pup calls were less sensitive to natural pup call variability in mothers than in pup-naïve females. In the broader context, our data suggest that auditory cortical responses to communication sounds are plastic, and that communicative significance is correlated with an improved cortical representation.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation / methods
  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Auditory Cortex / physiology*
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Evoked Potentials, Auditory / physiology
  • Female
  • Male
  • Maternal Behavior / physiology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred CBA
  • Recognition, Psychology / physiology*
  • Sound Localization / physiology*
  • Sound Spectrography / methods
  • Ultrasonics
  • Vocalization, Animal / physiology*