The classic view of cochlear partition (CP) motion, generalized to be for all mammals, was derived from basal-turn measurements in laboratory animals. Recently, we reported motion of the human CP in the cochlear base that differs substantially from the classic view. We described a human soft tissue "bridge" (non-existent in the classic view) between the osseous spiral lamina (OSL) and basilar membrane (BM), and showed how OSL and bridge move in response to sound. Here, we detail relevant human anatomy to better understand the relationship between form and function. The bridge and BM have similar widths that increase linearly from base to apex, whereas the OSL width decreases from base to apex, leading to an approximately constant total CP width throughout the cochlea. The bony three-dimensional OSL microstructure, reconstructed from unconventionally thin, 2-μm histological sections, revealed thin, radially wide OSL plates with pores that vary in size, extent, and distribution with cochlear location. Polarized light microscopy revealed collagen fibers in the BM that spread out medially through the bridge to connect to the OSL. The long width and porosity of the OSL may explain its considerable bending flexibility. The similarity of BM and bridge widths along the cochlea, both containing continuous collagen fibers, may make them a functional unit and allow maximum CP motion near the bridge-BM boundary, as recently described. These anatomical findings may help us better understand the motion of the structures surrounding the organ of Corti and how they shape the input to the cochlear sensory mechanism.
Keywords: basilar membrane; cochlear anatomy; cochlear mechanics; cochlear model; human cochlea.