The effects of selective breeding for differential rates of 50-kHz ultrasonic vocalizations on emotional behavior in rats

Jeffrey Burgdorf*, Jaak Panksepp, Stefan M. Brudzynski, Margery C. Beinfeld, Howard C. Cromwell, Roger A. Kroes, Joseph R. Moskal

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

73 Scopus citations


Fifty-kHz ultrasonic vocalizations have previously been shown to be positively correlated with reward and appetitive social behavior in rats, and to reflect a positive affective state. In this study, rats selectively bred for high and low rates of 50-kHz vocalizations as juveniles were tested as adults in a battery of behavioral tests for social/emotional behaviors. We found that animals selectively bred for high rates of 50-kHz vocalizations exhibited more crosses into the center area of the open field apparatus, were more likely to show a preference for a dilute sucrose solution (.8%) compared to tap water, and were less aggressive than randomly bred animals. Conversely, animals bred for low rates of 50-kHz calls produced more fecal boli during both open field testing and "tickling" stimulation, and made less contact with conspecifics in a social interaction test compared to randomly bred animals. We also observed that low line rats have elevated brain levels of cholecystokinin (CCK) in the cortex, which is consistent with literature showing that CCK content in the cortex is positively correlated with rates of aversive 22-kHz USVs. Conversely, high line animals had elevated levels of metenkephalin in several brain regions, which is consistent with the role of endogenous-opioids in the generation 50-kHz USVs and positive affect. These results suggest that animals bred for high rates of 50-kHz may show a stress resilient phenotype, whereas low line rats may show a stress prone phenotype. As such these animals could provide novel insights into the neurobiology of emotion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)34-46
Number of pages13
JournalDevelopmental Psychobiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2009


  • Emotion
  • Rodent
  • Vocalizations

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Developmental Biology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience

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