The mechanical waveform of the basilar membrane. I. Frequency modulations ("glides") in impulse responses and cross-correlation functions

J Acoust Soc Am. 1997 Jun;101(6):3583-92. doi: 10.1121/1.418319.


The purpose of this investigation is to present evidence from experimental as well as model results on temporal variations of the frequency of oscillation in the basilar membrane's impulse response. Stimuli were either clicks leading to a direct estimate of the impulse response, or bands of pseudo-random noise (one or two octaves wide) which lead to an indirect estimate of the impulse response via a cross-correlation procedure. The noise bands were centered at the best frequency of the BM location under observation. Responses were obtained from the basal turn of the guinea-pig cochlea, from a location with a best frequency (for the weakest stimuli) between 17.0 and 18.5 kHz. Data acquisition was done with a sample frequency of 208 kHz. Input-output cross-correlation functions were found to share with impulse responses the property that the initial oscillations have a noticeably lower frequency than the later ones. During the impulse response the frequency of oscillation increases gradually. This increase occurs and continues to beyond the time that the oscillations reach the largest amplitude. This frequency variation is called a "glide." Using the "analytic signal" method the frequency of oscillation is found to increase continually throughout the duration of the main lobe of oscillation, even at the lowest tested stimulus intensities (about 20 dB SPL). At high stimulus intensity both the direct and indirect impulse response change their appearance drastically but the glide retains its basic form. In the case of the direct impulse response estimate the glide can be attributed to temporal variation of the degree of nonlinearity. For the indirect impulse response this is not true, because with a constant level noise stimulus there is no regular temporal variation of nonlinearity. In this case the glide should be interpreted as an intrinsic property of the cochlear system. From our and others' data the glide was found to exist over a topographic frequency range of best frequencies of at least from 1.76 to 18 kHz. Two examples of present-day models of the cochlea are discussed of which one is found to demonstrate the glide phenomenon in its response, and the other one does not.

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
  • Computer Simulation
  • Guinea Pigs
  • Pitch Discrimination / physiology*
  • Psychoacoustics
  • Sound Spectrography