Several lines of evidence indicate that rats emit ultrasonic vocalizations (USVs) in
response to a wide range of stimuli that are capable of producing either euphoric (positive) or
dysphoric (negative) emotional states. On these bases, recordings of USVs are extensively used in
preclinical studies of affect, motivation, and social behavior. Rat USVs are sensitive to the effects
of certain classes of psychoactive drugs, suggesting that emission of rat USVs can have relevance not
only to neurobiology, but also to neuropharmacology and psychopharmacology. This review
summarizes three types of rat USVs, namely 40-kHz USVs emitted by pups, 22-kHz USVs and
50-kHz USVs emitted by young and adult animals, and relevance of these vocalizations to neuropharmacological studies.
Attention will be focused on the issues of how rat USVs can be used to evaluate the pharmacological properties of
different classes of drugs, and how rat USVs can be combined with other behavioral models used in neuropharmacology.
The strengths and limitations of experimental paradigms based on the evaluation of rat USVs will also be discussed.
Keywords: Analgesic, antidepressant, anxiolytic, drug abuse, drug toxicity, psychostimulant.
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