Sex-specific ultrasonic vocalization patterns and alcohol consumption in high alcohol-drinking (HAD-1) rats

Physiol Behav. 2019 May 1;203:81-90. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2017.11.012. Epub 2017 Nov 13.


Ultrasonic vocalizations (USVs) have been established as an animal model of emotional status and are often utilized in drug abuse studies as motivational and emotional indices. Further USV functionality has been demonstrated in our recent work showing accurate identification of selectively-bred high versus low alcohol-consuming male rats ascertained exclusively from 22 to 28kHz and 50-55kHz FM USV acoustic parameters. With the hypothesis that alcohol-sensitive sex differences could be revealed through USV acoustic parameters, the present study examined USVs and alcohol consumption in male and female selectively bred high-alcohol drinking (HAD-1) rats. For the current study, we examined USV data collected during a 12-week experiment in male and female HAD-1 rats. Experimental phases included Baseline (2weeks), 4-h EtOH Access (4weeks), 24-h EtOH Access (4weeks) and Abstinence (2weeks). Findings showed that both male and female HAD-1 rats spontaneously emitted a large number of 22-28kHz and 50-55kHz FM USVs and that females drank significantly more alcohol compared to males over the entire course of the experiment. Analyses of USV acoustic characteristics (i.e. mean frequency, duration, bandwidth and power) revealed distinct sex-specific phenotypes in both 50-55kHz FM and 22-28kHz USV transmission that were modulated by ethanol exposure. Moreover, by using a linear combination of these acoustic characteristics, we were able to develop binomial logistic regression models able to discriminate between male and female HAD-1 rats with high accuracy. Together these results highlight unique emotional phenotypes in male and female HAD-1 rats that are differentially modulated by alcohol experience.

Keywords: Alcohol preferring rats; Binomial logistic regression; High alcohol drinking rats; Linear mixed model; USV acoustic parameters.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Alcohol Drinking / genetics*
  • Animals
  • Ethanol / administration & dosage*
  • Female
  • Male
  • Motivation / drug effects*
  • Rats
  • Sex Characteristics*
  • Ultrasonics
  • Vocalization, Animal / drug effects*


  • Ethanol