Sound-induced motions of individual cochlear hair bundles

Biophys J. 2004 Nov;87(5):3536-46. doi: 10.1529/biophysj.104.044404. Epub 2004 Aug 17.


We present motions of individual freestanding hair bundles in an isolated cochlea in response to tonal sound stimulation. Motions were measured from images taken by strobing a light source at the tone frequency. The tips and bases of hair bundles moved a comparable amount, but with a phase difference that increased by 180 degrees with frequency, indicating that distributed fluid properties drove hair bundle motion. Hair bundle rotation increased with frequency to a constant value, and underwent >90 degrees of phase change. The frequency at which the phase of rotation relative to deflection of the bundle base was 60 degrees was comparable to the expected best frequency of each hair cell, and varied inversely with the square of bundle height. The sharpness of tuning of individual hair bundles was comparable to that of hair cell receptor potentials at high sound levels. These results indicate that frequency selectivity at high sound levels in this cochlea is purely mechanical, determined by the interaction of hair bundles with the surrounding fluid. The sharper tuning of receptor potentials at lower sound levels is consistent with the presence of a negative damping, but not a negative stiffness, as an active amplifier in hair bundles.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation / methods*
  • Animals
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cochlea / cytology
  • Cochlea / physiology
  • Hair Cells, Auditory, Inner / cytology*
  • Hair Cells, Auditory, Inner / physiology*
  • Image Interpretation, Computer-Assisted / methods
  • Lizards
  • Mechanotransduction, Cellular / physiology*
  • Movement / physiology*
  • Sound Spectrography / methods*