Want to know what mice in labs are saying? Try DeepSqueak.
A breakthrough app for ultrasonic squeak analysis.
- Mice have a vocabulary of about 20 different phrases.
- A clever new neural-network-based application reveals what mice used in research say.
- Spoiler: The conversation changes when a female shows up
Rodents are chatty little creatures, and even if mice aren't really hyper-intelligent pan-dimensional beings, as they're portrayed to be in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, they do seem to speak in their own very high-pitched way. They have what University of Washington researcher Kevin Coffey characterizes as "a rich repertoire of calls" — around 20 of them.
But what could they be saying?
On Jan. 4, Coffey and his colleague, Russell Marx, published a study in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology that delves into this mystery. Through a new software application they've developed called "DeepSqueak," the duo has made several insights.
(UW Medicine/Big Think)
DeepSqueak squeaks, visualized
Mouse vocalizations are largely in the high-frequency, ultrasonic range — much higher, around 100 kHz, than we can hear — and automated analysis tools until now have fallen short. Noise confuses those programs, they're held back by static algorithms, and they're slow. DeepSqueak, however, turns the problem on its head by treating the audio challenge as a visual one. In it, machine hearing works together with "deep" artificial neural networks to learn over time, to get better and better at differentiating squeaks. Hence the "deep" in DeepSqueak.
DeepSqueak captures audio recordings of 100 kHz-range mouse vocalizations, converts them first into sonograms, and then runs those images through recognition algorithms not dissimilar to the type used by autonomous vehicles for identifying objects. "DeepSqueak uses biomimetic algorithms that learn to isolate vocalizations by being given labeled examples of vocalizations and noise," explained Marx in a press release. Essentially, DeepSqueak learns the difference between deliberate mouse utterances and extraneous noises, and then discerns patterns to derive the rodent's meaning.
The application looks to offer a "convenient, affordable and widely available" method of analyzing mouse vocalizations when rodents are being used as test subjects in studies of, for example, addiction in humans, according to UW's John Neumaier, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences. And indeed, says Coffey, "With drugs of abuse, you see both positive and negative calls."
So what are mice saying?
Cloud of mouse vocalization shapes
So far, a few types of "conversations" have been identified. For example, when two male mice are in contact, they squeak the same calls over and over.
Interestingly, should a female stop by, the vocalizations increase in complexity. While it could be they're just trying to sound smart, the fact that this change of sounds is most pronounced when a male smells, but doesn't see, a female suggests that the noises may have to do with courtship.
DeepSqueak has also identified vocal sounds that express happiness when mice are expecting a reward, such as sugar, or during play with other mice.
- What did the mice say? DeepSqueak uses AI to translate ultrasonic ... ›
- DeepSqueak uses AI to translate what rodents are saying – GeekWire ›
- DeepSqueak: a deep learning-based system for detection and ... ›
What can 3D printing do for medicine? The "sky is the limit," says Northwell Health researcher Dr. Todd Goldstein.
- Medical professionals are currently using 3D printers to create prosthetics and patient-specific organ models that doctors can use to prepare for surgery.
- Eventually, scientists hope to print patient-specific organs that can be transplanted safely into the human body.
- Northwell Health, New York State's largest health care provider, is pioneering 3D printing in medicine in three key ways.
Torn between absolutism on the left and the right, classical liberalism—with its core values of compassion and incremental progress whereby the once-radical becomes the mainstream—is in need of a good defense. And Adam Gopnik is its lawyer.
- Liberalism as "radical pragmatism"
- Intersectionality and civic discourse
- How "a thousand small sanities" tackled drunk driving, normalized gay marriage, and could control gun violence
Irish president believes students need philosophy.
- President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins calls for students to be thought of as more than tools made to be useful.
- Higgins believes that philosophy and history should be a basic requirement forming a core education.
- The Irish Young Philosopher Awards is one such event that is celebrating this discipline among the youth.
The lost practice of face-to-face communication has made the world a more extreme place.
- The world was saner when we spoke face-to-face, argues John Cameron Mitchell. Not looking someone in the eye when you talk to them raises the potential for miscommunication and conflict.
- Social media has been an incredible force for activism and human rights, but it's also negatively affected our relationship with the media. We are now bombarded 24/7 with news that either drives us to anger or apathy.
- Sitting behind a screen makes polarization worse, and polarization is fertile ground for conspiracy theories and fascism, which Cameron describes as irrationally blaming someone else for your problems.
SMARTER FASTER trademarks owned by The Big Think, Inc. All rights reserved.