Spontaneous basilar-membrane oscillation (SBMO) and coherent reflection

Egbert De Boer, Alfred L. Nuttall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


In a previous report (in JARO) we have described a relatively high-frequency (15 kHz) spontaneous oscillation of the basilar membrane (SBMO) in a guinea pig ear; this oscillation was accompanied by a spontaneous otoacoustic emission (SOAE) at the same frequency. During the spontaneous oscillation and after it had subsided, the mechanical frequency response of the basilar membrane was measured by way of a wide-band random-noise stimulus, and it showed a number of spectral peaks, one of which having the frequency of the original oscillation. This pattern of peaks cannot be explained by assuming a single place of reflection in the cochlea. In this paper the process of 'coherent reflection' is artificially evoked in a three-dimensional model of the cochlea by imposing random place-fixed irregularities to the basilar-membrane impedance. It is shown that in the model a series of peaks arises in the frequency spectrum of the basilar-membrane response which phenomenon resembles the one found in the experimental animal. It is also shown that these peaks are actually due to superposition of the primary wave and a wave resulting from 'coherent reflection' which is reflected at the stapes. When the intensity of the acoustic stimulus signal is increased, the relative sizes of these peaks in the simulation diminish in about the same way as in the experiment. It is concluded that coherent reflection most likely is the cause of the 'extra peaks', and that this concept can also explain the observed level dependence of these peaks. The findings of this study lead to a minor refinement regarding the actual requirements for coherent reflection to arise.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)26-37
Number of pages12
JournalJARO - Journal of the Association for Research in Otolaryngology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2006


  • Active cochlea
  • Basilar membrane
  • Coherent reflection
  • Spontaneous oscillation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology
  • Sensory Systems


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