Sound-induced motility of isolated cochlear outer hair cells is frequency-specific

Nature. 1989 Dec 14;342(6251):814-6. doi: 10.1038/342814a0.


The inner ear is capable of highly selective frequency discrimination. This is achieved not only by the travelling wave of the basilar membrane in the cochlear partition, but also by the active participation of nonlinear and vulnerable elements that enhance frequency selectivity. It has been shown that isolated mammalian outer hair cells respond with a change in length when subjected to sound stimulation at a fixed frequency. Here we investigate the motile behaviour of isolated cells when the stimulus frequency is varied between 200 and 10,000 Hz. By varying the frequency and the intensity of the tone, it is possible to obtain 'tuning curves' for the motile response. We demonstrate that the cell body of solitary hair cells, free from contact with the basilar membrane, shows a sharply tuned motile behaviour. We suggest that frequency selectivity in the organ of Corti is amplified by the tuned motility of the cell body of outer hair cells.

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Animals
  • Auditory Perception / physiology*
  • Basilar Membrane / physiology
  • Cell Movement
  • Guinea Pigs
  • Hair Cells, Auditory / cytology
  • Hair Cells, Auditory / physiology*
  • In Vitro Techniques