The Influence of Social Experience on Acoustic Communication in Mice
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In the present experiments, I attempted to understand how social experience throughout the lifespan affects the production, preference, and perception of USVs in female mice. These experiments were the first comprehensive investigation of whether chronic social deprivation leads to changes in the ways that mice are able to use and understand their USVs. Additionally, I addressed some gaps in knowledge about overall usage and perception of USVs by female mice. In Experiment 1, I investigated USV production in socially experienced and isolated mice. Social isolation led to a significant increase in USV production to both male and female conspecifics. This difference was possibly due to increased motivation in isolated mice to make social contact. I examined female preference to male communication signals in Experiment 2. Chronic isolation led to a decreased preference for male signals. The type of social experience also had an effect on mate choice, as female mice that only had exposure to other females were attracted to different signals than mice that had experience with both males and females. In Experiment 3, I explored USV discrimination by socially experienced and isolated mice to determine if long-term social isolation led to deficits in USV perception. Social isolation resulted in deficits in perception early in testing, but discrimination performance recovered following repeated exposure to the experimental stimuli. In sum, social experience is a critical component for normal behavior in female mice. Prior social experience must be considered when investigating mouse communication.