The remarkable sensitivity, frequency selectivity, and dynamic range of the mammalian cochlea relies on longitudinal transmission of minuscule amounts of energy as passive, pressure-driven, basilar membrane (BM) traveling waves. These waves are actively amplified at frequency-specific locations by a mechanism that involves interaction between the BM and another extracellular matrix, the tectorial membrane (TM). From mechanical measurements of isolated segments of the TM, we made the important new (to our knowledge) discovery that the stiffness of the TM is reduced when it is mechanically stimulated at physiologically relevant magnitudes and at frequencies below their frequency place in the cochlea. The reduction in stiffness functionally uncouples the TM from the organ of Corti, thereby minimizing energy losses during passive traveling-wave propagation. Stiffening and decreased viscosity of the TM at high stimulus frequencies can potentially facilitate active amplification, especially in the high-frequency, basal turn, where energy loss due to internal friction within the TM is less than in the apex. This prediction is confirmed by neural recordings from several frequency regions of the cochlea.
|Number of pages||10|
|Publication status||Published - 19 Mar 2013|