Mechanical Coupling between Inner and Outer Hair Cells in the Mammalian Cochlea

  • D. C. Mountain
  • A. R. Cody
Part of the NATO ASI Series book series (NSSA)


The mammalian cochlea is often described as a mechanical frequency analyzer in which the basilar membrane acts as a bank of mechanical filters tuned to different frequencies. The inner hair cells (IHC) in such descriptions passively respond to the displacement or velocity of the basilar membrane and pass the acoustic information on to the auditory nerve. The outer hair cells (OHC) are now believed to act as electromechanical amplifiers and serve to increase the movement of the basilar membrane over a limited frequency range. Mountain et al. (1983) proposed that the output of the mechanical-to-electrical transduction process in the OHC drives an electrical-to-mechanical transduction process which is, in turn, coupled back to the motion of the basilar and tectorial membranes. This feedback system is inherently nonlinear due to the limited dynamic range of the forward transduction process.


Hair Cell Sound Pressure Level Receptor Potential Outer Hair Cell Basilar Membrane 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Cody, A.R. and Mountain, D.C. (1988). Low frequency inner hair cells: Evidence for a mechanical origin of peak splitting. Submitted for Publication.Google Scholar
  2. Dallos. P., Santos-Sacchi, and Flock, A. (1982). Intracellular recordings from cochlear outer hair cells. Science 218, 582–584.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Dallos, P., Cheatham, M.A. and Oesterle, E. (1986). Harmonic components in hair cell responses. In: Auditory Frequency Selectivity (Eds: Moore, C.J. and Patterson, R.D.) Plenum, London, pp. 73–80.Google Scholar
  4. Mountain, D.C. (1988). Measurement of low frequency receptor potentials in inner hair cells: A theoretical analysis. Submitted for Publication.Google Scholar
  5. Mountain, D.C., Hubbard, A.E. and McMullen, T.A. (1983). Electromechanical processes in the cochlea. In:Mechanics of Hearing (Eds: de Boer, E. and Viergever, M.A.) Delft University Press, Delft, pp. 119–126.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Nuttall, A.L., Brown, M.C., Masta, R.I. and Lawrence, M. (1981). Inner hair cell responses to the velocity of basilar membrane motion in the guinea pig. Brain Res. 211, 171–174.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Patuzzi, R.B. and Yates, G.K. (1987). The low frequency response of inner hair cells in the guinea pig cochlea: Implications for fluid coupling and resonance of the stereocilia. Hearing Res. 30, 83–98.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Ruggero, M.A. and Rich, N.C. (1983). Chinchilla auditory-nerve responses to low-frequency tones. J. Acoust. Soc. Am. 73, 2096–2108.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Ruggero, M.A. and Rich, N.C. (1987). Timing of spike initiation in cochlear afferents: Dependance on site of innervation. J. Neurophys. 58, 379–403.Google Scholar
  10. Russell, I.J. and Sellick, P.M. (1983). Low-frequency characteristics of intracellularly recorded receptor potentials in guinea pig cochlear hair cells. J. Physiol. 338, 179–206.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. Sellick, P.M., Patuzzi, R. and Johnstone, B.M. (1982). Modulation of responses of spiral ganglion cells in the guinea pig cochlea by low frequency sound. Hearing Res. 7, 199–221.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Sellick, P.M. and Russell, I.J. (1980). The responses of inner hair cells to basilar membrane velocity during low frequency stimulation in the guinea pig cochlea. Hearing Res. 2, 439–445.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Zwislocki, J.J. (1986). Are nonlinearities observed in the firing rates of auditory-nerve afferents reflections of a nonlinear coupling between the tectorial membrane and the organ of Corti. Hearing Res. 22, 217–221.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • D. C. Mountain
    • 1
  • A. R. Cody
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Departments of Biomedical Engineering and OtolaryngologyBoston UniversityBostonUSA
  2. 2.M.R.C. Neurophysiology Group School of Biological SciencesUniversity of SussexFalmer, BrightonUK

Personalised recommendations