High-precision spatial localization of mouse vocalizations during social interaction

Sci Rep. 2017 Jun 7;7(1):3017. doi: 10.1038/s41598-017-02954-z.


Mice display a wide repertoire of vocalizations that varies with age, sex, and context. Especially during courtship, mice emit ultrasonic vocalizations (USVs) of high complexity, whose detailed structure is poorly understood. As animals of both sexes vocalize, the study of social vocalizations requires attributing single USVs to individuals. The state-of-the-art in sound localization for USVs allows spatial localization at centimeter resolution, however, animals interact at closer ranges, involving tactile, snout-snout exploration. Hence, improved algorithms are required to reliably assign USVs. We develop multiple solutions to USV localization, and derive an analytical solution for arbitrary vertical microphone positions. The algorithms are compared on wideband acoustic noise and single mouse vocalizations, and applied to social interactions with optically tracked mouse positions. A novel, (frequency) envelope weighted generalised cross-correlation outperforms classical cross-correlation techniques. It achieves a median error of ~1.4 mm for noise and ~4-8.5 mm for vocalizations. Using this algorithms in combination with a level criterion, we can improve the assignment for interacting mice. We report significant differences in mean USV properties between CBA mice of different sexes during social interaction. Hence, the improved USV attribution to individuals lays the basis for a deeper understanding of social vocalizations, in particular sequences of USVs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acoustics*
  • Algorithms
  • Animals
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Mice, Inbred CBA
  • Spatial Analysis
  • Vocalization, Animal*