Many symptoms used routinely for human psychiatric diagnosis cannot be directly observed in animals which cannot describe their internal states. However, the ultrasonic vocalizations (USV) rodents use to communicate their emotional states can be measured. USV have therefore become a particularly useful tool in brain disease models. Spontaneously hypertensive rats (SHR) are considered an animal model of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and schizophrenia. However, the specifics of SHR's behavior have not been fully described and there is very little data on their USV. Recently, we developed a communication model, in which Wistar rats are exposed to pre-recorded playbacks of aversive (22-kHz) or appetitive (50-kHz) USV, and their vocal responses depend on the extent of prior fear conditioning (0, 1, 6 or 10 shocks). Here, we investigated SHR's behavior and heart rate (HR) in our communication model, in comparison to Wistar rats employed as controls. In general, SHR emitted typical USV categories, however, they contained more short 22-kHz and less 50-kHz USV overall. Moreover, fewer SHR, in comparison with Wistar rats, emitted long 22-kHz USV after fear conditioning. SHR did not show a 50-kHz playback-induced HR increase, while they showed a profound 22-kHz playback-induced HR decrease. Finally, the number of previously delivered conditioning shocks appeared to have no effect on the investigated vocal, locomotor and HR responses of SHR. The phenomena observed in SHR are potentially attributable to deficits in emotional perception and processing. A lower number of 50-kHz USV emitted by SHR may reflect observations of speech impairments in human patients and further supports the usefulness of SHR to model ADHD and schizophrenia.
Keywords: ADHD; Blood pressure telemetry; Fear conditioning; Heart rate; Hypertension; Spontaneously hypertensive rats; Ultrasonic vocalizations.
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