Effects of ovarian hormones on the emission of 50-kHz ultrasonic vocalizations during distributed clitoral stimulation in the rat


Fifty-kHz ultrasonic vocalizations (USVs) are emitted by adult rats during appetitive phases of behavior in response to stimuli thought to be associated with a positive affective state. In particular, 50-kHz USVs with rapid frequency oscillations, known as trills and flat-trills, in which these oscillations are flanked by a monotonic portion, are together positively correlated with appetitive behaviors such as rough and tumble play, drug and natural reward, and mating. Female rats produce 50-kHz USVs during a variety of sexual contexts, yet data are still vague as female sexual behavior is seldom studied on its own. Distributed clitoral stimulation (CLS) offers a unique approach to investigating female 50-kHz USVs as it mimics stimulation received during mating. Although CLS induces a sexual reward state, it is unknown whether CLS elicits trills and flat-trills. We addressed this question using eight ovariectomized rats, we investigated whether ovarian hormones augmented these call subtypes in response to CLS. The combined and separate effects of estradiol benzoate (EB) and progesterone (P), and oil vehicle were assessed through comparison of these call subtypes between CLS and inter-CLS interval. We found that CLS with EB + P significantly increased call duration and rate, lowered peak frequency, and widened the bandwidth of trills. Flat-trills showed a similar pattern except for call duration. Call distribution during the CLS and inter-CLS interval suggest that trill and flat-trills may be indicative of both anticipatory and sexual reward.

Hormones & Behavior
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