Expression of c-Fos in rat auditory and limbic systems following 22-kHz calls

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In the present study, adult Long-Evans rats were exposed either to natural conspecific aversive 22-kHz vocalizations or to artificial call-like stimuli with comparable frequency-temporal features, followed by c-Fos immunohistochemistry. The natural 22-kHz vocalizations was either played from a recording or produced by a foot-shocked animal located nearby (live vocalizations). In comparison with controls (non-exposed animals), c-Fos immunoreactivity was significantly increased in the inferior colliculus (IC), auditory cortex (AC), periaqueductal grey (PAG), basolateral amygdala (BA), and hippocampus (Hip) of rats exposed to either live or recorded 22-kHz natural vocalizations. Exposure to live natural vocalizations of the foot-shocked animal resulted in a similar pattern of c-Fos activity, as did exposure to the playback of the natural vocalizations. In contrast to this, foot-shocked rats (emitting the 22-kHz vocalizations) had the c-Fos positivity increased markedly in the PAG and only slightly in the AC. The expression of c-Fos also increased in the IC, AC, and in the PAG in animals exposed to the artificial call-like stimuli, when compared to controls; however, the increase was much less pronounced. In this case, c-Fos expression was not increased in the hippocampus or basolateral amygdala. Interestingly, almost no c-Fos expression was found in the medial nucleus of the geniculate body in any of the experimental groups. These findings suggest that differences exist between the processing of important natural conspecific vocalizations and artificial call-like stimuli with similar frequency-temporal features, and moreover they suggest the specific role of individual brain structures in the processing of such calls.

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