Methods ARTICLE

Front. Psychiatry, 24 October 2011 | http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fpsyt.2011.00056

Development of translational methods in spectral analysis of human infant crying and rat pup ultrasonic vocalizations for early neurobehavioral assessment

  • 1 Neurodevelopmental Laboratory, Department of Pediatrics, Levine Children’s Hospital at Carolinas Medical Center, Charlotte, NC, USA
  • 2 Department of Psychology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC, USA
  • 3 Curriculum in Neurobiology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC, USA
  • 4 Department of Psychiatry, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC, USA
  • 5 Department of Child Psychiatry, Pediatrics, and Psychology, Yale Child Study Center, Yale University, New Haven, CT, USA
  • 6 Department of Psychiatry, Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC, USA

The purpose of this article is to describe the development of translational methods by which spectrum analysis of human infant crying and rat pup ultrasonic vocalizations (USVs) can be used to assess potentially adverse effects of various prenatal conditions on early neurobehavioral development. The study of human infant crying has resulted in a rich set of measures that has long been used to assess early neurobehavioral insult due to non-optimal prenatal environments, even among seemingly healthy newborn and young infants. In another domain of study, the analysis of rat put USVs has been conducted via paradigms that allow for better experimental control over correlated prenatal conditions that may confound findings and conclusions regarding the effects of specific prenatal experiences. The development of translational methods by which cry vocalizations of both species can be analyzed may provide the opportunity for findings from the two approaches of inquiry to inform one another through their respective strengths. To this end, we present an enhanced taxonomy of a novel set of common measures of cry vocalizations of both human infants and rat pups based on a conceptual framework that emphasizes infant crying as a graded and dynamic acoustic signal. This set includes latency to vocalization onset, duration and repetition rate of expiratory components, duration of inter-vocalization-intervals and spectral features of the sound, including the frequency and amplitude of the fundamental and dominant frequencies. We also present a new set of classifications of rat pup USV waveforms that include qualitative shifts in fundamental frequency, similar to the presence of qualitative shifts in fundamental frequency that have previously been related to insults to neurobehavioral integrity in human infants. Challenges to the development of translational analyses, including the use of different terminologies, methods of recording, and spectral analyses are discussed, as well as descriptions of automated processes, software solutions, and pitfalls.

Keywords: rat pup, infant crying, ultrasonic vocalization, prenatal, substance exposure

Citation: Zeskind PS, McMurray MS, Garber KA, Neuspiel JM, Cox ET, Grewen KM, Mayes LC and Johns JM (2011) Development of translational methods in spectral analysis of human infant crying and rat pup ultrasonic vocalizations for early neurobehavioral assessment. Front. Psychiatry 2:56. doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2011.00056

Received: 19 April 2011; Paper pending published: 17 June 2011;
Accepted: 29 September 2011; Published online: 24 October 2011.

Edited by:

Sheryl Moy, University of North Carolina, USA

Reviewed by:

Betty Zimmerberg, Williams College, USA
Susan Barron, University of Kentucky, USA

Copyright: © 2011 Zeskind, McMurray, Garber, Neuspiel, Cox, Grewen, Mayes and Johns. This is an open-access article subject to a non-exclusive license between the authors and Frontiers Media SA, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in other forums, provided the original authors and source are credited and other Frontiers conditions are complied with.

*Correspondence: Philip Sanford Zeskind, Department of Pediatrics, Levine Children’s Hospital at Carolinas Medical Center, 1540 Garden Terrace, Charlotte, NC 28203, USA. e-mail: philip.zeskind@carolinashealthcare.org