Mice can cough, according to new research that could help scientists combat coughing in humans.
Researchers at Guangzhou Medical College in China hit upon this adorable discovery after exposing a group of 40 mice to fine mists of capsaicin, the same molecule that makes chili peppers spicy. The rodents were then placed in a device known as a plethysmograph, a machine that can measure changes in body volume, to detect when air moved in and out of the mice. Scientists also used mouse-sized microphones to detect the coughing.
While in the plethysmograph, LiveScience reports the mice produced a range of sounds, from sniffing, tapping their teeth, scratching their noses, and twitching their heads. As well as this, researchers detected tiny, explosive noises that seemed to coincide with head-tossing, abdominal jerking ,and open mouths. These, concluded the scientists, were coughs.
The coughing was reduced dramatically when the mice were given common cough suppressants such as codeine.
The research, which was published in the online journal PLOS ONE, suggests mice could be used in the development of cough syrups and other anti-coughing medication. Guinea pigs are currently used for this, but mice are cheaper for scientists and laboratories to breed and keep.
Behavioral neurobiologist Erich Jarvis at Duke University Medical Center, who was not involved in the coughing research, told LiveScience:
“It would be interesting to see if it’s possible to get mice to voluntarily cough, and if so, what are the neural mechanisms in the brain for that. If they can voluntarily cough, maybe the neural circuits for such coughing could be the precursors for their vocal communication circuits.”
Coughing isn’t the only only human trait scientists have discovered in rodents: A study last year found that rats actually laugh when tickled.
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