, Volume 114, Issue 3, pp 441–448 | Cite as

Ultrasounds emitted by female rats during agonistic interactions: effects of morphine and naltrexone

  • Margaret Haney
  • Klaus A. Miczek
Original Investigations


Ultrasonic vocalizations may be an expression of the affective pain response in laboratory rodents. The present experiment compared morphine's effects on high (33–60 kHz) and low (20–32 kHz) frequency ultrasonic vocalizations to its effects on a range of unconditioned behavioral responses to aversive stimuli; the influence of estrous cyclicity on morphine sensitivity was also investigated. In experiment 1, naive female Long-Evans rats, selected during estrus or diestrus, received cumulative morphine (1, 3, 6, 10 mg/kg SC) or saline, and in experiment 2, rats were pretreated with naltrexone (0.1 mg/kg IP) 5 min before morphine (17, 30, 60, 100 mg/kg SC). The following endpoints were measured 20–25 min post-injection: (1) tail flick latency; (2) ultrasonic and audible vocalizations; (3) the behavioral response to aggressive attack; and (4) locomotor activity. Following a brief exposure to an attack, rats were threatened by an aggressor but protected from further attack by a wire mesh cage (30×21.5×20 cm), thereby allowing for continued behavioral and vocal measurement without the risk of physical injury; video and audio recordings were made of the attack encounter and a subset of the protected encounter (1 min). The endpoint most potently and specifically modulated by morphine was high frequency ultrasounds. The rate of high frequency calling varied as a function of the estrous cycle, supporting gonadal hormone modulation of ultrasonic vocalizations. Low frequency ultrasounds, by contrast, were relatively insensitive to opiate manipulation and were less influenced by estrous cyclicity. High frequency vocalizations may be a more sensitive indication of the affective response to an attacking conspecific than low frequency calls. The attenuation of high frequency ultrasonic calls at doses that do not affect any other behavioral or vocal responses may correspond to human descriptions of morphine analgesia, in which the affective component to pain is more potently modulated than the sensory component.

Key words

Ultrasound Rats Morphine Naltrexone Aggression Pain Opiate Defense 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • Margaret Haney
    • 1
  • Klaus A. Miczek
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyTufts UniversityMedfordUSA

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