Rats produce ultrasonic vocalisation (USVs) that are classified into different types, based on their average frequency. In pups 40 kHz USVs are produced upon social isolation, and in adults USVs can be associated with affective states and specific behavioural patterns (i.e., appetitive 50 kHz vocalisations of frequency range 30−100 kHz, or aversive 20 kHz vocalisations of frequency range 18−30 kHz). Generally, USVs of frequency around 50 kHz are linked to activation of brain reward pathways, during anticipation or experience of rewarding stimuli. Previous studies have described several subtypes of 50 kHz USVs, according to their acoustic properties. We asked whether USV production might be relevant to feeding behaviour. We recorded USVs from 14-week old adult rats during the satisfaction of a physiological need: refeeding following mild food deprivation (17 h overnight fast). We analysed a 10 min consummatory phase, preceded by a 10 min anticipatory phase, as a control for the experimental meal. Following identification of USV subtypes, we applied frequentist and Bayesian (Monte Carlo shuffling) statistical analyses to investigate the relationship between USV emission and rat behaviour. We found that it was not total USV quantity that varied in response to food consumption, but the subtype of USV produced. Most importantly we found that rats who feed tend to produce flat USVs of a frequency around 40 kHz. Beyond the previous reports of circumstantial association feeding-flat USVs, our observation directly correlate vocalisation and ingestive behaviour. Our study highlights that, in addition to quantification of the production rate, study of USV subtypes might inform us further on rat consummatory behaviour. Since this vocalisation behaviour can have a communicative purpose, those findings also illustrate nutrition studies might benefit from considering the possible social dimension of feeding behaviour.
- eating behaviour
- Monte Carlo analysis
- food reward
- behavioural sequence analysis