Integrating the active process of hair cells with cochlear function

Nat Rev Neurosci. 2014 Sep;15(9):600-14. doi: 10.1038/nrn3786. Epub 2014 Aug 6.


Uniquely among human senses, hearing is not simply a passive response to stimulation. Our auditory system is instead enhanced by an active process in cochlear hair cells that amplifies acoustic signals several hundred-fold, sharpens frequency selectivity and broadens the ear's dynamic range. Active motility of the mechanoreceptive hair bundles underlies the active process in amphibians and some reptiles; in mammals, this mechanism operates in conjunction with prestin-based somatic motility. Both individual hair bundles and the cochlea as a whole operate near a dynamical instability, the Hopf bifurcation, which accounts for the cardinal features of the active process.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Auditory Pathways / physiology*
  • Cochlea / cytology*
  • Cochlea / physiology*
  • Hair Cells, Auditory / physiology*
  • Hair Cells, Auditory / ultrastructure
  • Hearing
  • Humans
  • Mechanotransduction, Cellular / physiology