It is generally believed that the remarkable sensitivity and frequency selectivity of mammalian hearing depend on outer hair cell-generated force, which amplifies sound-induced vibrations inside the cochlea. This reverse transduction force production has never been demonstrated experimentally, however, in the living ear. Here by directly measuring microstructure vibrations inside the cochlear partition using a custom-built interferometer, we demonstrate that electrical stimulation can evoke both fast broadband and slow sharply tuned responses of the reticular lamina, but only a slow tuned response of the basilar membrane. Our results indicate that outer hair cells can generate sufficient force to drive the reticular lamina over all audible frequencies in living cochleae. Contrary to expectations, the cellular force causes a travelling wave rather than an immediate local vibration of the basilar membrane; this travelling wave vibrates in phase with the reticular lamina at the best frequency, and results in maximal vibration at the apical ends of outer hair cells.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Physics and Astronomy(all)