Ultrasonic vocalizations in Shank mouse models for autism spectrum disorders: detailed spectrographic analyses and developmental profiles

Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2014 Jun;43:199-212. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2014.03.021. Epub 2014 Apr 12.


Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are a class of neurodevelopmental disorders characterized by persistent deficits in social behavior and communication across multiple contexts, together with repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities. The high concordance rate between monozygotic twins supports a strong genetic component. Among the most promising candidate genes for ASD is the SHANK gene family, including SHANK1, SHANK2 (ProSAP1), and SHANK3 (ProSAP2). SHANK genes are therefore important candidates for modeling ASD in mice and various genetic models were generated within the last few years. As the diagnostic criteria for ASD are purely behaviorally defined, the validity of mouse models for ASD strongly depends on their behavioral phenotype. Behavioral phenotyping is therefore a key component of the current translational approach and requires sensitive behavioral test paradigms with high relevance to each diagnostic symptom category. While behavioral phenotyping assays for social deficits and repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities are well-established, the development of sensitive behavioral test paradigms to assess communication deficits in mice is a daunting challenge. Measuring ultrasonic vocalizations (USV) appears to be a promising strategy. In the first part of the review, an overview on the different types of mouse USV and their communicative functions will be provided. The second part is devoted to studies on the emission of USV in Shank mouse models for ASD. Evidence for communication deficits was obtained in Shank1, Shank2, and Shank3 genetic mouse models for ASD, often paralleled by behavioral phenotypes relevant to social deficits seen in ASD.

Keywords: Animal model; Neurodevelopmental disorders; Postsynaptic density; Social behavior; Ultrasonic communication.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Child Development Disorders, Pervasive / genetics
  • Child Development Disorders, Pervasive / physiopathology*
  • Developmental Disabilities / physiopathology*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Phenotype
  • Social Behavior
  • Vocalization, Animal / physiology*