Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

How Young Mice Phone Home: Study Gives Clue To How Mothers' Brains Screen For Baby Calls

Date:
June 11, 2009
Source:
Emory University
Summary:
Researchers have identified a surprising mechanism in the brains of mother mice that focuses their awareness on the calls of baby mice. Their study found that the high-frequency sounds of mice pups stand out in a mother's auditory cortex by inhibiting the activity of neurons more attuned to lower frequency sounds.

A new study gives a clue to how mother mice' brains screen for baby calls.
Credit: The Liu lab

Emory University researchers have identified a surprising mechanism in the brains of mother mice that focuses their awareness on the calls of baby mice. Their study, published June 11 in Neuron, found that the high-frequency sounds of mice pups stand out in a mother's auditory cortex by inhibiting the activity of neurons more attuned to lower frequency sounds.

Related Articles


"Previous research has focused on how the excitation of neurons can detect or interpret sounds, but this study shows the key role that inhibition may play in real situations," said Robert Liu, assistant professor of biology and senior author of the study.

In 2007, Liu and colleagues were the first to demonstrate that the behavioral context in which communication sounds are heard affects the brain's ability to detect, discriminate and respond to them. Specifically, the researchers found that the auditory neurons of female mice that had given birth were better at detecting and discriminating vocalizations from mice pups than auditory neurons in virgin females.

Experiments on awake mice

While that experiment was done with anesthetized mice, the current study by Liu's lab is the first to record the activity of neurons in the auditory cortex of awake mice. Both female mice that had given birth and virgin female mice with no experience caring for mice pups were used in the study.

When exposed to the high-frequency whistles of mice pups, which fall into the 60 to 80 kilohertz range, a large area of neurons in the auditory cortex of the mother mice was more strongly inhibited than in the virgin mice. The pattern of excitation of neurons was similar, however, for both the mothers and virgins.

"Something different is happening in the mothers' brains when they are processing the same sound, and this difference is consistent," Liu said. "The inhibition of neurons appears to be enhancing the contrast in the sound of mice pups, so they stand out more in the acoustic environment."

Showing neural plasticity

Liu's research focuses on how the brain evolves to process sounds in the natural environment. "By understanding normal functioning of the auditory processes in the brain, then we can begin to understand what is breaking down in disease situations, such as following a stroke or brain lesion," he said.

Until recently, it had been widely assumed that the auditory cortex acted simply as a static filter, and that areas downstream in the brain did the complex task of learning to parse meaning from sounds.

"What our experiments help demonstrate is that even at this relatively early stage of cortical sound processing, responses are dynamic," Liu said. "The auditory cortex has plasticity, so that sounds that become behaviorally relevant to us can get optimized."

More research is needed, he added, to determine whether the changes in the brains of mother mice is due to hormonal shifts, the behavioral experience of caring for pups, or both.

The study authors include Edgar Galindo-Leon, a post-doctoral fellow in Liu's lab, and Frank Lin, a graduate student in the lab. Their research was funded by the National Institute for Deafness and Communication Disorders and the NSF Center for Behavioral Neuroscience.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Emory University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Edgar E. Galindo-Leon, Frank G. Lin, Robert C. Liu. Inhibitory Plasticity in a Lateral Band Improves Cortical Detection of Natural Vocalizations. Neuron, 2009; DOI: 10.1016/j.neuron.2009.05.001

Cite This Page:

Emory University. "How Young Mice Phone Home: Study Gives Clue To How Mothers' Brains Screen For Baby Calls." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 11 June 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/06/090610124422.htm>.
Emory University. (2009, June 11). How Young Mice Phone Home: Study Gives Clue To How Mothers' Brains Screen For Baby Calls. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 27, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/06/090610124422.htm
Emory University. "How Young Mice Phone Home: Study Gives Clue To How Mothers' Brains Screen For Baby Calls." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/06/090610124422.htm (accessed November 27, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Health & Medicine News

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Ebola Leaves Orphans Alone in Sierra Leone

Ebola Leaves Orphans Alone in Sierra Leone

AFP (Nov. 27, 2014) — The Ebola epidemic sweeping Sierra Leone is having a profound effect on the country's children, many of whom have been left without any family members to support them. Duration: 01:02 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Experimental Ebola Vaccine Shows Promise In Human Trial

Experimental Ebola Vaccine Shows Promise In Human Trial

Newsy (Nov. 27, 2014) — A recent test of a prototype Ebola vaccine generated an immune response to the disease in subjects. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Pet Dogs to Be Used in Anti-Ageing Trial

Pet Dogs to Be Used in Anti-Ageing Trial

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Nov. 26, 2014) — Researchers in the United States are preparing to discover whether a drug commonly used in human organ transplants can extend the lifespan and health quality of pet dogs. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Today's Prostheses Are More Capable Than Ever

Today's Prostheses Are More Capable Than Ever

Newsy (Nov. 26, 2014) — Advances in prosthetics are making replacement body parts stronger and more lifelike than they’ve ever been. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins