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Author Notes:

Corresponding author: Robert C. Liu, Department of Biology, Emory University, 1510, Clifton Road, Atlanta, GA, 30322, USA

These authors contributed equally: Amielle Moreno and Ankita Gumaste.

We thank Chris Rothfusz, Xiaoyu Xu, Tamara Ivanova, Li-Ling Shen and Alonzo Whyte for technical assistance, and Hasse Walum for helpful discussions.

Conflicts of interest: None


Research Funding:

This work was supported by the National Institutes of Health grants R01DC008343 (RCL), T32HD071845 (KKC) and F31DC015395 (AM)


  • Science & Technology
  • Life Sciences & Biomedicine
  • Audiology & Speech-Language Pathology
  • Neurosciences
  • Otorhinolaryngology
  • Neurosciences & Neurology
  • Estrogen
  • Social learning
  • Stability
  • Novelty
  • Plasticity
  • Experience dependent
  • Maternal behavior
  • Hormone
  • Ultrasonic
  • Vocalization
  • Sensory
  • MICE
  • RATS

Familiarity with social sounds alters c-Fos expression in auditory cortex and interacts with estradiol in locus coeruleus


Journal Title:

Hearing Research


Volume 366


, Pages 38-49

Type of Work:

Article | Post-print: After Peer Review


When a social sound category initially gains behavioral significance to an animal, plasticity events presumably enhance the ability to recognize that sound category in the future. In the context of learning natural social stimuli, neuromodulators such as norepinephrine and estrogen have been associated with experience-dependent plasticity and processing of newly salient social cues, yet continued plasticity once stimuli are familiar could disrupt the stability of sensorineural representations. Here we employed a maternal mouse model of natural sensory cortical plasticity for infant vocalizations to ask whether the engagement of the noradrenergic locus coeruleus (LC) by the playback of pup-calls is affected by either prior experience with the sounds or estrogen availability, using a well-studied cellular activity and plasticity marker, the immediate early gene c-Fos. We counted call-induced c-Fos immunoreactive (c-Fos-IR) cells in both LC and physiologically validated fields within the auditory cortex (AC) of estradiol or blank-implanted virgin female mice with either 0 or 5-days prior experience caring for vocalizing pups. Estradiol and pup experience interacted both in the induction of c-Fos-IR in the LC, as well as in behavioral measures of locomotion during playback, consistent with the neuromodulatory center's activity being an online reflection of both hormonal and experience-dependent influences on arousal. Throughout core AC, as well as in a high frequency sub-region of AC and in secondary AC, a main effect of pup experience was to reduce call-induced c-Fos-IR, irrespective of estradiol availability. This is consistent with the hypothesis that sound familiarity leads to less c-Fos-mediated plasticity, and less disrupted sensory representations of a meaningful call category. Taken together, our data support the view that any coupling between these sensory and neuromodulatory areas is situationally dependent, and their engagement depends differentially on both internal state factors like hormones and external state factors like prior experience.

Copyright information:

This is an Open Access work distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/).

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