Negative Affect-Associated USV Acoustic Characteristics Predict Future Excessive Alcohol Drinking and Alcohol Avoidance in Male P and NP Rats

James M. Reno, Neha Thakore, Lawrence K. Cormack, Timothy Schallert, Richard L. Bell, W. Todd Maddox, Christine L. Duvauchelle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Background: Negative emotional status and adverse emotional events increase vulnerability to alcohol abuse. Ultrasonic vocalizations (USVs) emitted by rats are a well-established model of emotional status that can reflect positive or negative affective responses in real time. Most USV studies assess counts, yet each USV is a multidimensional data point characterized by several acoustic characteristics that may provide insight into the neurocircuitry underlying emotional response. Methods: USVs emitted from selectively bred alcohol-naïve and alcohol-experienced alcohol-preferring and nonpreferring rats (P and NP rats) were recorded during 4-hour sessions on alternating days over 4 weeks. Linear mixed modeling (LMM) and linear discriminant analysis (LDA) were applied to USV acoustic characteristics (e.g., frequency, duration, power, and bandwidth) of negative affect (22 to 28 kilohertz [kHz])- and positive (50 to 55 kHz) affect-related USVs. Results: Hundred percent separation between alcohol-naïve P and NP rats was achieved through a linear combination (produced by LDA) of USV acoustic characteristics of 22- to 28-kHz USVs, whereas poor separation (36.5%) was observed for 50- to 55-kHz USVs. 22- to 28-kHz LDA separation was high (87%) between alcohol-experienced P and NP rats, but was poor for 50- to 55-kHz USVs (57.3%). USV mean frequency and duration were the highest weighted characteristics in both the naïve and experienced 22- to 28-kHz LDA representations suggesting that alcohol experience does not alter the representations. LMM analyses of 22- to 28-kHz USV acoustic characteristics matched the LDA results. Poor LDA separation was observed between alcohol-naïve and alcohol-experienced P rats for both 22- to 28-kHz and 50- to 55-kHz USVs. Conclusions: Advanced statistical analysis of negative affect-associated USV data predicts future behaviors of excessive alcohol drinking and alcohol avoidance in selectively bred rats. USV characteristics across rat lines reveal affect-related motivation to consume alcohol and may predict neural pathways mediating emotional response. Further characterization of these differences could delineate particular neurocircuitry and methods to ameliorate dysregulated emotional states often observed in human alcohol abusers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)786-797
Number of pages12
JournalAlcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2017


  • Alcohol-Preferring and Nonpreferring Rats
  • Linear Discriminant Analysis
  • Linear Mixed Model
  • Multidimensional Data
  • Selectively Bred Rats

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Toxicology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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