Life Lines

Last year we talked about how rats can apparently laugh. This year, new research published in PLoS ONE suggests that mice can cough. It actually surprised me to learn this was a controversial topic, since no one has reportedly attempted to tease apart the barely audible sound of a cough from the other sounds mice make. Researchers Chen et al. from Guangzhou Medical College (China) exposed mice to a variety of fine mists and studied the sounds the mice made by placing them in a plethysmograph to measure changes in the lung volume of the animals. They also listened to the sounds with a mini-microphone and observed their body movements.  The researchers were able to tease out what they considered to be consistent with a cough: explosive noises combined with open mouths, tossing of the head, and jerking of the abdomen.  When they gave the mice codeine (to suppress the cough), the number of “coughs” decreased. When they administered capsaicin (what gives chili peppers their heat), coughing was suppressed, presumably because capsaicin blocked or desensitized nerves involved in the coughing reflex. 

These findings suggest that mice can be used in research on treating or preventing coughs as opposed to guinea pigs, which are more costly.  

Sources:

Chen L, Lai K, Lomask JM, Jiang B, Zhong N (2013) Detection of Mouse Cough Based on Sound Monitoring and Respiratory Airflow Waveforms. PLoS ONE 8(3): e59263. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0059263

NBC News