Timing of the reticular lamina and basilar membrane vibration in living gerbil cochleae

Wenxuan He, David Kemp, Tianying Ren

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

16 Scopus citations


Auditory sensory outer hair cells are thought to amplify sound-induced basilar membrane vibration through a feedback mechanism to enhance hearing sensitivity. For optimal amplification, the outer hair cell-generated force must act on the basilar membrane at an appropriate time at every cycle. However, the temporal relationship between the outer hair cell-driven reticular lamina vibration and the basilar membrane vibration remains unclear. By measuring sub-nanometer vibrations directly from outer hair cells using a custom-built heterodyne low-coherence interferometer, we demonstrate in living gerbil cochleae that the reticular lamina vibration occurs after, not before, the basilar membrane vibration. Both tone- and click-induced responses indicate that the reticular lamina and basilar membrane vibrate in opposite directions at the cochlear base and they oscillate in phase near the best-frequency location. Our results suggest that outer hair cells enhance hearing sensitivity through a global hydromechanical mechanism, rather than through a local mechanical feedback as commonly supposed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
StatePublished - Sep 5 2018


  • basilar membrane
  • cochlea
  • cochlear amplifier
  • low-coherence interferometer
  • neuroscience
  • outer hair cells
  • reticular lamina

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)

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