Amygdalar Auditory Neurons Contribute to Self-Other Distinction during Ultrasonic Social Vocalization in Rats

Front Neurosci. 2016 Sep 20;10:399. doi: 10.3389/fnins.2016.00399. eCollection 2016.


Although, clinical studies reported hyperactivation of the auditory system and amygdala in patients with auditory hallucinations (hearing others' but not one's own voice, independent of any external stimulus), neural mechanisms of self/other attribution is not well understood. We recorded neuronal responses in the dorsal amygdala including the lateral amygdaloid nucleus to ultrasonic vocalization (USVs) emitted by subjects and conspecifics during free social interaction in 16 adult male rats. The animals emitting the USVs were identified by EMG recordings. One-quarter of the amygdalar neurons (15/60) responded to 50 kHz calls by the subject and/or conspecifics. Among the responsive neurons, most neurons (Type-Other neurons; 73%, 11/15) responded only to calls by conspecifics but not subjects. Two Type-Self neurons (13%, 2/15) responded to calls by the subject but not those by conspecifics, although their response selectivity to subjects vs. conspecifics was lower than that of Type-Other neurons. The remaining two neurons (13%) responded to calls by both the subject and conspecifics. Furthermore, population coding of the amygdalar neurons represented distinction of subject vs. conspecific calls. The present results provide the first neurophysiological evidence that the amygdala discriminately represents affective social calls by subject and conspecifics. These findings suggest that the amygdala is an important brain region for self/other attribution. Furthermore, pathological activation of the amygdala, where Type-Other neurons predominate, could induce external misattribution of percepts of vocalization.

Keywords: amygdala; auditory hallucination; self/other attribution; single unit recording; ultrasonic vocalization.