Charge-balanced, sinusoidal current was passed differentially between the apex and round window of the guinea pig cochlea. Cochlear blood flow was measured using a laser Doppler flow monitor. Systemic blood pressure was monitored from a cannula within the common carotid artery. Electrical stimulation increased cochlear blood flow, while systemic blood pressure was unaffected. A cochlear blood flow response parameter, normalized for transient changes in systemic blood pressure, was defined. The magnitude of the response parameter was found to be frequency selective and was also found to be an increasing function of current intensity, with maximum responses obtained with 500 Hz sinusoids. This cochlear blood flow response was not observed in dead animals; was present in preparations paralyzed with gallamine hydrochloride; and was correlated with an increase in cochlear red blood cell velocity, as directly observed by intravital microscopy. These observations imply that electrical stimulation induces a local vasodilation within the temporal bone. The fact that decreased cochlear blood flow was never observed with current injection implies that ischemia is not a likely mechanism of electrically induced tissue damage within the inner ear. The mechanism of this cochlear blood flow response is addressed in a companion report.
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