TrackUSF, a novel tool for automated ultrasonic vocalization analysis, reveals modified calls in a rat model of autism

Shai Netser, Guy Nahardiya, Gili Weiss-Dicker, Roei Dadush, Yizhaq Goussha, Shanah Rachel John, Mor Taub, Yuval Werber, Nir Sapir, Yossi Yovel, Hala Harony-Nicolas, Joseph D. Buxbaum, Lior Cohen, Koby Crammer, Shlomo Wagner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Various mammalian species emit ultrasonic vocalizations (USVs), which reflect their emotional state and mediate social interactions. USVs are usually analyzed by manual or semi-automated methodologies that categorize discrete USVs according to their structure in the frequency-time domains. This laborious analysis hinders the effective use of USVs as a readout for high-throughput analysis of behavioral changes in animals. Results: Here we present a novel automated open-source tool that utilizes a different approach towards USV analysis, termed TrackUSF. To validate TrackUSF, we analyzed calls from different animal species, namely mice, rats, and bats, recorded in various settings and compared the results with a manual analysis by a trained observer. We found that TrackUSF detected the majority of USVs, with less than 1% of false-positive detections. We then employed TrackUSF to analyze social vocalizations in Shank3-deficient rats, a rat model of autism, and revealed that these vocalizations exhibit a spectrum of deviations from appetitive calls towards aversive calls. Conclusions: TrackUSF is a simple and easy-to-use system that may be used for a high-throughput comparison of ultrasonic vocalizations between groups of animals of any kind in any setting, with no prior assumptions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number159
Pages (from-to)159
JournalBMC Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 12 Jul 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was supported by The Human Frontier Science Program (HFSP grant RGP0019/2015), the Israel Science Foundation (ISF grants #1350/12, 1361/17), and the Ministry of Science, Technology, and Space of Israel (Grant #3-12068) grants to SW; and by the Seaver Foundation and NIMH R01 (MH116108) grants to HHN.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, The Author(s).


  • Animal models
  • Appetitive calls, Aversive calls
  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Bat echolocation
  • Behavioral analysis
  • Computational tool
  • Mating calls
  • Shank3-deficient rats
  • Ultrasonic vocalizations

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Structural Biology
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Physiology
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology (all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (all)
  • Plant Science
  • Developmental Biology
  • Cell Biology


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