Anticipation of play elicits high-frequency ultrasonic vocalizations in young rats

Brian Knutson*, Jeffrey Burgdorf, Jaak Panksepp

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

331 Scopus citations

Abstract

The authors provide initial documentation that juvenile rats emit short, high-frequency ultrasonic vocalizations (high USVs, ∼55 kHz) during rough-and-tumble play. In an observational study, they further observe that these vocalizations both correlate with and predict appetitive components of the play behavioral repertoire. Additional experiments characterized eliciting conditions for high USVs. Without prior play exposure, rats separated by a screen vocalized less than playing rats, but after only 1 play session, separated rats vocalized more than playing rats. This finding suggested that high USVs were linked to a motivational state rather than specific play behaviors or general activity. Furthermore, individual rats vocalized more in a chamber associated with play than in a habituated control chamber. Finally, congruent and incongruent motivational manipulations modulated vocalization expression. Although play deprivation enhanced high USVs, an arousing but aversive stimulus (bright light) reduced them. Taken together, these findings suggest that high USVs may index an appetitive motivation to play in juvenile rats.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)65-73
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Comparative Psychology
Volume112
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Psychology (miscellaneous)

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