Spectral and temporal properties of calls reveal deficits in ultrasonic vocalizations of adultFmr1knockout mice

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Abstract

The Fmr1 knockout (KO) mouse has commonly been used to investigate communication impairments, one of the key diagnostic symptoms observed in Fragile X syndrome (FXS) and Autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Many studies have found alterations in ultrasonic vocalizations (USVs) in neonatal Fmr1 KO mice, however, there is limited research investigating whether these deficits continue into adulthood. In the present study, we examine differences in female urine-induced ultrasonic vocalizations, scent marking behavior, odor discrimination, and open field activity in adult male Fmr1 KO and wildtype (WT) mice. Overall, we found extensive alterations between genotypes in both spectral and temporal properties of ultrasonic vocalizations. There was no difference in the average number of calls emitted by both genotypes, however, Fmr1 KO mice emitted calls of a higher frequency, decreased amplitude, and shorter duration than WT mice. Spectrographic analyses revealed statistically significant differences between genotypes in the types of calls emitted. Contrastingly, we found no differences in scent marking behavior, a form of social communication, or in odor discrimination and activity levels of the mice. The results corroborate previous studies emphasizing the importance of qualitative differences observed in vocalization behavior of Fmr1 KO mice, rather than quantitative measurements such as number of calls emitted. Overall, the study confirms the presence of abnormalities in vocalization behavior in adult Fmr1 KO mice that we believe are consistent with communication deficits seen in the syndrome.

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