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Mice show innate ability to vocalize: Deaf or not, courting male mice make same sounds

Date:
March 26, 2013
Source:
Washington State University
Summary:
While humans and birds must learn to vocalize, a neurophysiologist has found that deaf male mice will vocalize to females the same way as hearing mice. The finding points the way to a more finely focused, genetic tool for teasing out the mysteries of speech and its disorders.
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Scientists have long thought mice might be a model for how humans learn to vocalize. But new research has found that, unlike humans and songbirds, mice do not learn to vocalize.
Credit: © Vera Kuttelvaserova / Fotolia

Scientists have long thought mice might be a model for how humans learn to vocalize. But new research led by scientists at Washington State University Vancouver has found that, unlike humans and songbirds, mice do not learn to vocalize.

The results, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, point the way to a more finely focused, genetic tool for teasing out the mysteries of speech and its disorders.

To see if mice learn to vocalize, WSU neurophysiologist Christine Portfors destroyed the ear hair cells in more than a dozen newborn male mice. The cells convert sound waves into electrical signals processed by the brain, making hearing possible.

The deaf mice were then raised with hearing mice in a normal social environment.

Portfors and her fellow researchers, including WSU graduate student Elena Mahrt, used males because they are particularly exuberant vocalizers in the presence of females.

"We can elicit vocalization behavior in males really easily by just putting them with a female," Portfors said. "They vocalize like crazy."

And it turned out that it didn't matter if the mouse was deaf or not. The researchers catalogued essentially the same suite of ultrasonic sounds from both the deaf and hearing mice. "It means that they don't need to hear to be able to produce their sounds, their vocalizations," Portfors said. "Basically, they don't need to hear themselves. They don't need auditory feedback. They don't need to learn."

The finding means mice are out as a model to study vocal learning. However, scientists can now focus on the mouse to learn the genetic mechanism behind communication disorders.

"If you don't have learning as a variable, you can look at the genetic control of these things," Portfors said. "You can look at the genetic control of the output of the signal. It's not messed up by an animal that's been in a particular learning situation."

Portfors and Mahrt did their research in collaboration with scientists at the University of Washington. The study was funded by the National Science Foundation and the National Institute for Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.


Story Source:

The above post is reprinted from materials provided by Washington State University. The original item was written by Eric Sorensen. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


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Washington State University. "Mice show innate ability to vocalize: Deaf or not, courting male mice make same sounds." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 26 March 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130326194113.htm>.
Washington State University. (2013, March 26). Mice show innate ability to vocalize: Deaf or not, courting male mice make same sounds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 29, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130326194113.htm
Washington State University. "Mice show innate ability to vocalize: Deaf or not, courting male mice make same sounds." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130326194113.htm (accessed July 29, 2015).

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