Timing of cochlear feedback: spatial and temporal representation of a tone across the basilar membrane

Nat Neurosci. 1999 Jul;2(7):642-8. doi: 10.1038/10197.


Electromotile outer hair cell (OHC) feedback provides the sensitivity and sharp frequency tuning of the cochlea. Basilar membrane displacements in response to characteristic frequency (CF) tones were measured with an interferometer at up to 15 locations across the basilar membrane width in the basal turn of the guinea pig cochlea. For CF tones, basilar membranes vibrations were largest beneath the OHCs; these phase-led vibrations beneath outer pillar cells and adjacent to the spiral ligament by approximately 90 degrees. Post mortem, responses measured beneath the OHCs were reduced by up to 65 dB, and the basilar membrane moved with similar phase across its entire width. We suggest OHCs amplify basilar membrane responses to CF tones when the basilar membrane moves at maximum velocity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Action Potentials / physiology
  • Animals
  • Basilar Membrane / anatomy & histology
  • Basilar Membrane / physiology*
  • Cochlea / physiology*
  • Feedback
  • Guinea Pigs
  • Hair Cells, Auditory / physiology
  • Interferometry
  • Models, Neurological
  • Reaction Time
  • Vibration