'DeepSqueak' helps researchers decode rodent chatter

January 07, 2019

Many researchers realize that mice and rats are social and chatty. They spend all day talking to each other, but what are they really saying? Not only are many rodent vocalizations unable to be heard by humans, but also existing computer programs to detect these vocalizations are flawed. They pick up other noises, are slow to analyze data, and rely on inflexible. rules-based algorithms to detect calls.

Two young scientists at the University of Washington School of Medicine developed a software program called DeepSqueak, which lifts this technological barrier and promotes broad adoption of rodent vocalization research.

This program takes an audio signal and transforms it into an image, or sonogram. By reframing an audio problem as a visual one, the researchers could take advantage of state-of-the-art machine vision algorithms developed for self-driving cars. DeepSqueak represents the first use of deep artificial neural networks in squeak detection.

The program is highlighted in a recent paper published in Neuropsychopharmacology and was presented at Neurosciences 2018.

"DeepSqueak uses biomimetic algorithms that learn to isolate vocalizations by being given labeled examples of vocalizations and noise," said co-author Russell Marx. Marx is a technician in the Neumaier lab, which investigates complex behaviors relating to stress and addiction, and created the program with Kevin Coffey, whose specialty is studying the psychological aspects of drugs.

So what have the researchers found out so far?

"The animals have a rich repertoire of calls, around 20 kinds," said Coffey, a postdoctoral fellow in the Neumaier lab.

"With drugs of abuse, you see both positive and negative calls," Coffey said, explaining the complicated nature of addiction.

Coffey said the rodents seem the happiest when they are anticipating reward, such as sugar, or are playing with their peers. Interestingly, when two male mice are together, he said, they make the same calls over and over.

However, when they sense a female mouse nearby, their vocalizations are more complex, as if they are singing a courtship song. This effect is even more dramatic when the male mouse can smell but not see the female mouse. This observation suggests that male mice have distinct songs for different stages of courtship.

John Neumaier, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the UW School of Medicine, head of the Division of Psychiatric Neurosciences and associate director of the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute, says his goal is to develop treatments for withdrawal from alcohol or opioids. He said DeepSqueak is going to help his lab get there much faster and credits his two young researchers for doing something no one has been able to do yet -- making ultrasonic vocalizations convenient, affordable and widely available."

"If scientists can understand better how drugs change brain activity to cause pleasure or unpleasant feelings, we could devise better treatments for addiction," he said.
-end-


University of Washington Health Sciences/UW Medicine

Related Addiction Articles from Brightsurf:

Opioid addiction treatment is more widely available, but only for adults
Primary care providers have expanded access to buprenorphine for adults, but use of the opioid addiction treatment has decreased among the youngest patients, find researchers at Columbia University.

Is video game addiction real?
A recent six-year study, the longest study ever done on video game addiction, found that about 90% of gamers do not play in a way that is harmful or causes negative long-term consequences.

Eating disorders linked to exercise addiction
New research shows that exercise addiction is nearly four times more common amongst people with an eating disorder.

Co-addiction of meth and opioids hinders treatment
A study published in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment found that methamphetamine use was associated with more than twice the risk for dropping out of treatment for opioid-use disorder.

New tool to assess digital addiction in children
A new study developed and validated a tool for assessing children's overall addiction to digital devices.

Addiction intervention in hospital is a 'reachable moment'
Patients who meet an addiction medicine consult team while they're in the hospital are twice as likely to participate in treatment for substance use disorder after they go home, according to new research.

How stress leads to Facebook addiction
Friends on social media such as Facebook can be a great source of comfort during periods of stress.

Systematic review of food addiction as measured with the Yale Food Addiction Scale
The aim of this paper was to review the clinical significance of food addiction diagnoses made with the Yale Food Addiction Scale (YFAS) and to discuss the results in light of the current debate on behavioral addictions.

Drugs of abuse: Identifying the addiction circuit
What happens in the brain of a compulsive drug user?

Pancreatic cancer's addiction could be its end
Researchers at CSHL have discovered that an inappropriately produced protein may be why some pancreatic cancer patients die exceptionally early.

Read More: Addiction News and Addiction Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.