On the relationships between ultrasonic calling and anxiety-related behavior in rats

Braz J Med Biol Res. 2012 Apr;45(4):337-48. doi: 10.1590/s0100-879x2012007500038. Epub 2012 Mar 22.


In the present review, the phenomenon of ultrasonic vocalization in rats will be outlined, including the three classes of vocalizations, namely 40-kHz calls of pups, and 22- and 50-kHz calls of juvenile and adult rats, their general relevance to behavioral neuroscience, and their special relevance to research on anxiety, fear, and defense mechanisms. Here, the emphasis will be placed on 40- and 22-kHz calls, since they are typical for various situations with aversive properties. Among other topics, we will discuss whether such behavioral signals can index a certain affective state, and how these signals can be used in social neuroscience, especially with respect to communication. Furthermore, we will address the phenomenon of inter-individual variability in ultrasonic calling and what we currently know about the mechanisms, which may determine such variability. Finally, we will address the current knowledge on the neural and pharmacological mechanisms underlying 22-kHz ultrasonic vocalization, which show a substantial overlap with mechanisms known from other research on fear and anxiety, such as those involving the periaqueductal gray or the amygdala.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Age Factors
  • Animals
  • Anxiety / physiopathology*
  • Fear / physiology*
  • Male
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Vocalization, Animal / physiology*