Rodent ultrasonic vocalizations as biomarkers of future alcohol use: A predictive analytic approach

Published in: Cognitive, Affective, & Behavioral Neuroscience, Volume 18, Issue 1, 88-98

“Excessive alcohol consumption has a vast, negative impact on society. Rodent models have been successful in furthering our understanding of the biological underpinnings that drive alcohol consumption. Rodents emit ultrasonic vocalizations (USVs) that are each composed of several acoustic characteristics (e.g., frequency, duration, bandwidth, power). USVs reflect neurotransmitter activity in the ascending limb of the mesolimbic dopaminergic and cholinergic neurotransmitter systems and serve as noninvasive, real-time biomarkers of dopaminergic and cholinergic neurotransmission in the limbic system. In the present study, we recorded spontaneously emitted USVs from alcohol-naïve Long-Evans (LE) rats and then measured their alcohol intake. We compared the USV acoustic characteristics and alcohol consumption data from these LE rats with previously published data from selectively bred high-alcohol (P and HAD-1) and low-alcohol (NP and LAD-1) drinking lines from studies with the same experimental method. Predictive analytic techniques were applied simultaneously to this combined data set and revealed that (a) USVs emitted by alcohol-naïve rats accurately discriminated among high-alcohol consuming, LE, and low-alcohol consuming rat lines, and (b) future alcohol consumption in these same rat lines was reliably predicted from the USV data collected in an alcohol-naïve state. To our knowledge, this is the first study to show that alcohol consumption is predicted directly from USV profiles of alcohol-naïve rats. Because USV acoustic characteristics are sensitive to underlying neural activity, these findings suggest that baseline differences in mesolimbic cholinergic and dopaminergic tone could determine the propensity for future alcohol consumption in rodents.”

Written by: Nitish Mittal, W. Todd Maddox, Timothy Schallert, Christine L. Duvauchelle
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