Today, we had our annual research symposium. Our keynote speaker hailed from Duke. He spent the early part of his science career studying the ethology and phylogeny of vocalization, particularly in birds and humans. But, today I learned that mice have very complex vocalizations for the purpose of mating and establishing social hierarchies. A recent paper from the Jarvis lab outlines many of the experimental approaches that they used to identify brain circuitry responsible for this vocalization, gene regulation of this circuitry, and of greatest interest (to me), how male mice can modulate their vocalizations to mask themselves as a dominant male during the pursuit of females.
Vocalizations in deaf mice also show comparable deficits to those found in deaf humans. To conclude, it appears that the mouse may be the best model, especially with the availability of transgenic mice, to study the complexity of human speech, language, and unfortunate impediments.
Arriaga, G., Zhou, E., & Jarvis, E. (2012). Of Mice, Birds, and Men: The Mouse Ultrasonic Song System Has Some Features Similar to Humans and Song-Learning Birds PLoS ONE, 7 (10) DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0046610