Monday , November 29 2021

New automated technology to help scientists interpret unheard calls from lab mice


The research, led by the University of Edinburgh, has developed a new data analysis tool in an attempt to improve disease progression studies

A computer tool can provide a valuable insight into rodent communication patterns and is more reliable than existing methods that rely on human interpretation.

The system analyzes audio recordings of ultrasonic vocalizations – beyond the reach of human hearing. According to the researchers, this could support studies involving mice that play a crucial role in testing new therapies for human diseases.

Monitoring of rodent communication can reveal important information about how the disease is progressing, especially for neurological disorders such as Parkinson's disease and autism.

Experts have pre-categorized mouse communications into nine types of calls by manually deciphering visual images of sound waves known as spectrograms.

Researchers have now developed an automated tool that can accurately extract the characteristics of ultrasonic vocalizations to determine these different types of sounds.

The new approach uses machine learning techniques to make the analysis faster, more reliable and less subjective than human interpretation, researchers say.

It will standardize interpretations of communication with mice, helping researchers to directly compare their results across labs, mouse types and over time, they add.

The study was led by the Universities of Edinburgh and Melbourne and the Istituto Superiore di Sanità in Rome. Published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Dr Atanasios Tsanas, of the University of Edinburgh's Institute of Technology, who directs the study, said: "We have developed a fully automated system that uses signal processing and statistical machine learning techniques to extract a number of diverse models from the rodent ultrasound sounds. We then outlined these patterns of widely accepted types of vocalizations that experts understand.

"We hope these tools can find further application in animal model studies examining, for example, the effects of neurological effects on communication models."

Associate Professor Adam Vogel of the Speech Neuroscience Center at the University of Melbourne said: "These new methods will help scientists better measure mouse behavior, improving how we test new drugs, and how we measure changes in health and behavior in different diseases and conditions. . "

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