Morphine attenuates antipredator ultrasonic vocalizations in mixed-sex rat colonies.


Mixed-sex groups of laboratory rats living in a visible burrow system (VBS) emit 18-27 kHz ultrasound and retreat to the burrow when a cat is placed in the open area of the VBS. The total duration of ultrasonic vocalizations was reliably reduced by pretreatment with 5 mg/kg morphine. In a subsequent study using male-female colony pairs, presentation of a cat to individual rats in the absence of their colony mate indicated significant gender differences in base frequency, degree of emission, and characteristics of pulses elicited. Specifically, females showed a greater number and duration of vocalizations, of higher frequency (kHz), and with shorter individual pulse durations than males. In the same study, morphine (5 mg/kg) produced a general decrease in the level of ultrasonic emissions in both sexes, reduced the mean base frequency (kHz), and increased the mean duration of individual pulses. These data suggest that endogenous opioid mechanisms may be involved in the mediation of ultrasonic vocalization in response to a predator, and are discussed with reference to known involvement of such systems in defensive responding.


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@article{Shepherd1992MorphineAA, title={Morphine attenuates antipredator ultrasonic vocalizations in mixed-sex rat colonies.}, author={Jon K. Shepherd and D. Caroline Blanchard and Scott M Weiss and Robert John Rodgers and Robert J. Blanchard}, journal={Pharmacology, biochemistry, and behavior}, year={1992}, volume={41 3}, pages={551-8} }