Adult rats spontaneously vocalize in ultrasonic frequencies. Although these ultrasonic vocalizations (USVs) have been described as by-products of locomotor activity or social signals, accumulating evidence suggests that they may also index anticipatory affective states. Converging ethological, pharmacological, and brain stimulation research indicates that whereas long low-frequency (> 0.3-s, ∼22-kHz) USVs occur during anticipation of punishment or avoidance behavior, short, high-frequency (< 0.3-s, ∼50-kHz) USVs typically occur during anticipation of reward or approach behavior. Thus, long 22-kHz USVs may index a state of negative activation, whereas short, 50-kHz USVs may instead index a state of positive activation. This hypothesis has theoretical implications for understanding the brain circuitry underlying mammalian affective states and clinical applicability for modeling hedonic properties of different psychotropic compounds.
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