Changes in rat 50-kHz ultrasonic vocalizations during dopamine denervation and aging: Relevance to neurodegeneration

Aaron M. Johnson, Laura M. Grant, Timothy Schallert, Michelle R. Ciucci

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Vocal communication is negatively affected by neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson disease, and by aging. The neurological and sensorimotor mechanisms underlying voice deficits in Parkinson disease and aging are not well-understood. Rat ultrasonic vocalizations provide a unique behavioral model for studying communication deficits and the mechanisms underlying these deficits in these conditions. The purpose of this review was to examine the existing literature for methods using rat ultrasonic vocalization with regard to the primary disease pathology of Parkinson disease, dopamine denervation, and aging. Although only a small amount of papers were found for each of these topics, results suggest that both shared and unique acoustic deficits in ultrasonic vocalizations exist across conditions and that these acoustic deficits are due to changes in either dopamine signaling or denervation and in aging models changes to the nucleus ambiguus, at the level of the neuromuscular junction, and the composition of the vocal folds in the larynx. We conclude that ultrasonic vocalizations are a useful tool for studying biologic mechanisms underlying vocal communication deficits in neurodegenerative diseases and aging.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)211-219
Number of pages9
JournalCurrent Neuropharmacology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • 6-OHDA
  • Aging
  • Dopamine
  • Rat
  • Ultrasonic vocalization
  • Voice

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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