DeepSqueak, an advanced software, can analyze rodent vocalizations and compare sounds with the behaviors observed in laboratory settings. With this process, a progressive decoding of the language of mice and other rodents can take place: the researchers hope that this technology can be useful in a vast field of medical and psychological studies.
, published this week in the scientific journal Neuropsychopharmacology, is based on a revolutionary use of the spectrogram, able to transform a sound signal into an image or a series of graphs.
The visual measurements thus obtained are then analyzed with the help of advanced machine learning algorithms, belonging to the same "family" as those used by current autonomous driving systems to "see" the road and the context in which the cars move without driver.
The advantage of the DeepSqueak system is to be able to "hear" sounds otherwise unlistenable by the human ear: "Rodents have a very rich communication system, which goes beyond the range of sounds perceptible to humans," says Russell Marx, one of the researchers who presented the study. "Our software works to visualize all of these sounds, observe their shape and structure and organize them by category."
See DeepSqueak in action
Marx and the other co-creator Kevin Coffey are psychology and addiction scholars and have already made interesting discoveries in both fields: they became interested in understanding rodent satisfaction or depression signals by working with them in drug addiction experiments.
Mice, Coffey notes, are very happy at the sight of a prize (like sugar), but they show satisfaction even in particular social situations. Again: male rodents are more "repetitive" when they are among subjects of the same gender, while they make their range of expressions more complex in the presence of a specimen of the opposite sex. (Geez, like us humans! At the pub between boys only football and engines?).
We could continue indefinitely by imagining future applications of this technology, but the research team's short-term goal is to use it for in-depth dependency research.
"If scientists could better understand how substances change brain activity by inducing pleasant or unpleasant sensations," say the researchers, "We could develop much more effective treatments for addiction".
Gianluca Riccio, born in 1975, is the creative director of an advertising agency, copywriter and journalist. He is affiliated with Italian Institute for the Future, World Future Society and H +, Network of Italian Transhumanists. Since 2006 he directs Futuroprossimo.it, the Italian resource of Futurology.
Futuroprossimo.it is an Italian resource of futurology opened since 2006: every day news about the near future. Scientific discoveries, medical research, prototypes, concepts and predictions about the future for free.
Gianluca Riccio, copywriter and journalist - Born in 1975, he is the creative director of an advertising agency, he is affiliated with the Italian Institute for the Future, World Future Society and H +, Network of Italian Transhumanists.