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Current Neuropharmacology



ISSN (Print): 1570-159X
ISSN (Online): 1875-6190

Ultrasonic Vocalizations as a Measure of Affect in Preclinical Models of Drug Abuse: A Review of Current Findings

Author(s): David J. Barker, Steven J. Simmons and Mark O. West

Volume 13 , Issue 2 , 2015

Page: [193 - 210] Pages: 18

DOI: 10.2174/1570159X13999150318113642

Price: $65


The present review describes ways in which ultrasonic vocalizations (USVs) have been used in studies of substance abuse. Accordingly, studies are reviewed which demonstrate roles for affective processing in response to the presentation of drug-related cues, experimenter- and self-administered drug, drug withdrawal, and during tests of relapse/reinstatement. The review focuses on data collected from studies using cocaine and amphetamine, where a large body of evidence has been collected. Data suggest that USVs capture animals’ initial positive reactions to psychostimulant administration and are capable of identifying individual differences in affective responding. Moreover, USVs have been used to demonstrate that positive affect becomes sensitized to psychostimulants over acute exposure before eventually exhibiting signs of tolerance. In the drug-dependent animal, a mixture of USVs suggesting positive and negative affect is observed, illustrating mixed responses to psychostimulants. This mixture is predominantly characterized by an initial bout of positive affect followed by an opponent negative emotional state, mirroring affective responses observed in human addicts. During drug withdrawal, USVs demonstrate the presence of negative affective withdrawal symptoms. Finally, it has been shown that drug-paired cues produce a learned, positive anticipatory response during training, and that presentation of drug-paired cues following abstinence produces both positive affect and reinstatement behavior. Thus, USVs are a useful tool for obtaining an objective measurement of affective states in animal models of substance abuse and can increase the information extracted from drug administration studies. USVs enable detection of subtle differences in a behavioral response that might otherwise be missed using traditional measures.

Keywords: Addiction, affect, emotion, stimulant, ultrasonic vocalizations.

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