Mice possess the ability to emit vocalizations in the ultrasonic range (USVs) from the time they are pups to adulthood. Throughout life those USVs serve different purposes (Portfors, 2007). When they are out of the nest, pups vocalize to initiate mother-pup retrieval. Adult mice (both male and female) use USVs to communicate and to create social bonds, such as in territorial defense (Petric & Kalcounis-Repuell, 2013), social interaction (Chabout et al, 2012) or mating (Asaba et al, 2014).
In 2005, Holy and Guo proposed the idea that male mice produced USVs with some features similar to courtship songs in songbirds.
Since then, studies have shown that male mice have a multisyllabic repertoire and emit different USVs in different contexts. Whether or not these USVs are innate or learned is still under strong investigation (Arriaga & Jarvis, 2013), but some clear evidence from different laboratories tend to prove that it’s innate (Kikusui et al, 2011; Marht et al, 2013).
Our aim: first, we want to investigate how these complex multisyllabic songs are emitted and organized under specific contexts. Indeed, the use of a multisyllabic repertoire can increase potential flexibility and information in how elements are organized and recombined, namely syntax. In many bird species, modulating song syntax has ethological relevance for sexual behavior and mate preferences. Based on the extensive songbird knowledge we have acquired over many years, we have developed some new approaches to study the complexity of male mice courtship songs (Chabout et al., 2015). Second, we aim to study these songs by manipulating a series of candidate genes involved in the organization of song production pathways in mice as well as in birds and humans. These studies will help better understand the mechanisms involved in song production, and create a model to study diseases affecting vocal communication.
[Project manager: Dr. Jonathan Chabout. Collaborators: Sheel Patel (undergrad) and a rotation student]
Mouse Analyzer v1.3, MATLAB program (Arriaga et al., 2012) originally modified from code written by Timothy E. Holy (Holy and Guo., 2005). Download program.
Click to see a recent publication about male mice singing.