Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Mother mice more attuned to pup sounds than others

12.06.2007
Researchers have shown for the first time that the behavioral context in which communication sounds are heard affects the brain's ability to detect, discriminate and ultimately respond to them. Specifically, the researchers found that the auditory neurons of female mice that had given birth were better at detecting and discriminating vocalizations from mouse pups than the auditory neurons in virgin females.

ÒAlthough there have been many studies on communication and neurons in animals, such as in primates, birds and bats, those studies have focused on how neurons respond to sounds that were already behaviorally relevant to the animals," says Robert Liu, PhD, Emory University assistant professor of biology and lead author of the study, which appears in the June 12, 2007 issue of PLoS Biology.

"What's different about this study is that we used natural vocalizationsÑa range of pup callsÑto see how well neurons in mother mice and virgin, or pup-na•ve mice, detect, discriminate and act on this behaviorally important sound,Ó says Dr. Liu. Ultrasonic calls emitted by mouse pups communicate distress and elicit a search and retrieval response from mothers.

Our current work demonstrates that the neural code for communication sounds in adult mammals can change, either because of experience or because of hormonal mechanisms, as the significance of the signal is acquired. This means that the brain can improve information processing for specific communicative functions," says Liu.

... more about:
»Communication »Liu »neurons »pup

Liu began the work as a postdoctoral fellow in the lab of senior author Christoph Schreiner, PhD, MD, professor and vice chair of otolaryngology, head and neck surgery and a member of the W.M. Keck Foundation Center for Integrative Neuroscience at the University of California, San Francisco.

In the study, the researchers determined that the neurons in the mothers' auditory cortex, an area of the brain that processes sounds, showed larger and earlier electrical spiking, or signaling, than in virgin mice, says Dr. Schreiner.

This shows, says Dr. Liu, that, "the timing plays an important role in the neural code of sounds. The idea that spike timing is important in brain processes has been around for a long time, but we're looking at it specifically in the context of natural communication. And we found that the big difference in encoding is the behavioral relevance of these sounds."

Although the pups' vocalizations vary quite a bit, Dr. Liu says the mothers can still detect the calls, understand them and take action. "What is really intriguing is that behavioral studies have shown that, if you look at vocalizations made by male adult mice, they also make very high-frequency vocalizations as do pups but the mothers don't react to them as they do to the pup calls," says Dr. Liu.

Along these lines, another behavioral study, reported by a team in Germany in 1987, revealed behavioral differences in mice in response to vocalizations. In this case, says Schreiner, there were two groups of mice: "the pup-na•ve mice and the mother mice who really care about these sounds." The researchers found that, "If you play these vocalizations, the mothers run over to get the pup. If it's a different sound, they don't go as often, and why should they? Likewise, the female mice who have not been mothers don't go to the source of the pup calls more often than to any other vocalization. They're the same age and same species, yet only one thing is different: one group has had pups and the other hasn't. It appears that a switch is thrown that improves sensitivity to these sounds in the mothers.Ó

Dr. Schreiner says further research is needed to determine whether mothers recognize pup sounds immediately after they become pregnant, meaning a hormonal switch has been thrown, or after they give birth. Recognition of pup cries after birth would indicate that exposure to the cries triggers mothers' attentiveness.

Dr. Schreiner likens the improved ability of mother mice to distinguish sounds to what adult humans experience when initially learning a foreign language. ÒWe go to a foreign country, hear what people are saying, but we can't make subtle discriminations of syllables in order to establish the border between words. With time and experience the brain is adjusting to this, our neurons are becoming more discriminative, and we can distinguish words in what initially just appeared to us as an unbroken stream of sound.Ó

According to the authors, this study helps demonstrate how important sounds are encoded in the normal brain but also has implications for developing therapeutic strategies in children and adults who suffer from speech-perception deficits.

Holly Korschun | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.emory.edu

Further reports about: Communication Liu neurons pup

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht The birth of a new protein
20.10.2017 | University of Arizona

nachricht Building New Moss Factories
20.10.2017 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Neutron star merger directly observed for the first time

University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event

On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...

Im Focus: Breaking: the first light from two neutron stars merging

Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.

Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....

Im Focus: Smart sensors for efficient processes

Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).

When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...

Im Focus: Cold molecules on collision course

Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.

How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...

Im Focus: Shrinking the proton again!

Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.

It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ASEAN Member States discuss the future role of renewable energy

17.10.2017 | Event News

World Health Summit 2017: International experts set the course for the future of Global Health

10.10.2017 | Event News

Climate Engineering Conference 2017 Opens in Berlin

10.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Terahertz spectroscopy goes nano

20.10.2017 | Information Technology

Strange but true: Turning a material upside down can sometimes make it softer

20.10.2017 | Materials Sciences

NRL clarifies valley polarization for electronic and optoelectronic technologies

20.10.2017 | Interdisciplinary Research

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>