“Affect” In Mice Could Help Us Fight Depression

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In the animal kingdom there are several examples of species with a marked sociality. Some of these are certainly the gorillas, which establish similar ties to humans, and rats, capable of even “choosing friends.” A recent study found that female mice exhibit vocalizations very similar to those of the human emotional sphere.

A Cornell University research team is investigating the implications of these social behaviors in order to deepen the impact of social isolation on brain mechanisms that determine behavior. The aim of the study is to understand the processes related to isolation and to allow to counter human psychological pathologies, increased exponentially during the pandemic emergency.

Katherine Tschida, co-author of the study, said about murine-human behavioural similarities “This type of social interaction between female mice is the most equivalent to our daily interactions with other people” and continuing “Intuitively, we know that the

Researchers have studied the effects of isolation on female mice, isolating specimens in their cages. This seems to have led them to emit some typical sounds, inaudible to humans, called ultrasonic vocalizations. In addition, once another specimen was introduced, isolated subjects tended to be in contact and smell more. The nature of these sounds can be associated with the human consideration of phenomena typically associated with the communication of emotional states, such as laughter, sighing and crying.

“It is that innate and emotional voice communication that we produce in addition to our learned linguistic sounds,” Tschida suggests, and continuing, “Studying it in a mouse, we think we get information about how that process is controlled in people as well.”

The study data also showed that these emotional manifestations have a more pronounced nature with other female individuals than the introduction of male specimens. In fact, according to Tschida “They interact much more, vocalize much more.”

Researchers, after analysing these behavioral findings, are determined to perform neural experiments, to better identify the expression of ultrasonic sounds in the mechanisms of social interaction and to find out how isolation affects neural processes related to social expressions.

The results of this study and future ones could effectively treat mental disorders such as anxiety, depression and the wide spectrum of consequences due to social isolation in humans.

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