Social interactions and 50 kHz ultrasonic vocalizations in adolescent and adult rats

Behav Brain Res. 2009 Aug 24;202(1):122-9. doi: 10.1016/j.bbr.2009.03.025. Epub 2009 Mar 28.


Human adolescents drink partly to facilitate their social interactions, a social facilitatory effect of ethanol also seen in adolescent rats tested under familiar test circumstances. To explore the role of hedonic affect in ethanol-induced social facilitation, this study assessed 50 kHz ultrasonic vocalizations (USVs) in pair-housed adolescent (P29-37) and adult (P71-79) Sprague-Dawley male rats during social interactions. On each of eight test days, animals were socially isolated for 3 h and then injected intraperitoneally with 0 (saline), 0.25 or 0.5 g/kg ethanol. Twenty-five minutes later they were placed alone in a familiar test chamber for a 5-min period, followed by a 10-min encounter with a similarly injected peer. USVs were recorded during this 10-min period, while social interactions were videotaped for later scoring. BECs were measured immediately post-test on day 8. Although the 0.25 g/kg dose of ethanol facilitated play fighting in adolescents but not adults, ethanol had little to no effect on 50 kHz USV production under these test circumstances. USV production was higher in adults than adolescents, despite adolescents consistently engaging in more social behavior. To the extent that 50 kHz USVs index the hedonic value of social interactions, these findings support the conclusion that elevations in social behavior normally evident in adolescents may not be related to increases in hedonic sensitivity for social stimuli.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Aging*
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Central Nervous System Depressants / administration & dosage*
  • Central Nervous System Depressants / blood
  • Ethanol / administration & dosage*
  • Ethanol / blood
  • Male
  • Motor Activity / drug effects
  • Play and Playthings / psychology
  • Random Allocation
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Social Behavior*
  • Video Recording
  • Vocalization, Animal / drug effects*


  • Central Nervous System Depressants
  • Ethanol