Mapping the cochlear partition's stiffness to its cellular architecture

J Acoust Soc Am. 1994 Jan;95(1):395-400. doi: 10.1121/1.408331.


The mechanical properties of the cochlear partition are fundamental to auditory transduction. We measured the point stiffness of the partition, in vivo, at up to 17 radial positions spanning its width, in the basal turn of the gerbil cochlea. We found the linear stiffness at the position that is most likely under the outer pillar cells to be 1.5 times greater than adjacent positions toward the ligament, in the pectinate zone, and five times greater than adjacent positions toward the lamina, in the arcuate zone. This radial variation seems to reflect the cellular geometry of the partition: The pillar cell is positioned as a structural element, and the basilar membrane supports a rich cellular structure in the pectinate zone, whereas it borders a fluid-filled space in the arcuate zone. The radial variation in partition stiffness we find will influence passive cochlear mechanics, and also bears on active cochlear mechanics, since it supports the plausibility of cells as effective force generators. Our results from measurements made in vivo extend the findings of previous measurements made in excised cochleae, in which the cellular contribution to stiffness was less evident.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Animals
  • Basilar Membrane / physiology
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Cochlea / physiology*
  • Computer Simulation
  • Gerbillinae
  • Hearing / physiology*
  • Labyrinth Supporting Cells / physiology*
  • Pitch Perception / physiology
  • Tectorial Membrane / physiology
  • Vestibulocochlear Nerve / physiology