Temporal and spectral differences in the ultrasonic vocalizations of fragile X knock out mice during postnatal development

Behav Brain Res. 2014 Feb 1;259:119-30. doi: 10.1016/j.bbr.2013.10.049. Epub 2013 Nov 7.


The fmr1 knock out (KO) mouse has been a useful animal model to understand pathology and treatment of FXS, both anatomically and behaviorally. Ultrasonic vocalizations (USVs) are a behavioral tool to assess early life communication deficits in mice. Here, we report on the temporal and spectral features of USVs emitted after maternal separation in wild type (FVB/N) and fmr1 KO pups at postnatal days (P) P4, P7 and P10. The results show changes in the number and duration of calls in fmr1 KO pups and wild type pups were dependent on age and call type. Fmr1 KO pups showed an increased number of USVs at P7 but not at P4 or P10. This increase was specific to Frequency Jump calls. In addition, fmr1 KO mice showed a developmental shift in the temporal distribution of calls, with P10 mice calling in distinct bout patterns. Overall, these findings provide evidence that changes in USV outcomes were specific to certain call types and ages in fmr1 KO mice. Because early postnatal life is a window during which multiple neural systems activate and become established, behavioral measures such as using USVs as a measure of communication, may be useful as a predictor of brain changes and later developmental behavioral changes. Work is needed to better understand the functional outcomes of altered development of USVs and how these changes contribute to later emergence of autistic-like behaviors in animal models of autism.

Keywords: Autism spectrum disorders; Fragile X; Postnatal development; Spectral analysis; Ultrasonic vocalizations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Brain / growth & development*
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Developmental Disabilities / genetics*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Fragile X Mental Retardation Protein / genetics*
  • Fragile X Mental Retardation Protein / metabolism
  • Fragile X Syndrome / genetics
  • Fragile X Syndrome / physiopathology
  • Maternal Deprivation
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Vocalization, Animal / physiology*


  • Fmr1 protein, mouse
  • Fragile X Mental Retardation Protein