Time course of nerve-fiber regeneration in the noise-damaged mammalian cochlea

Int J Dev Neurosci. 1997 Jul;15(4-5):601-17. doi: 10.1016/s0736-5748(96)00115-3.


The time course of events which are essential for nerve-fiber regeneration in the mammalian cochlea was determined using a group of chinchillas that had been exposed for 3.5 hr to an octave band of noise with a center frequency of 4 kHz and a sound pressure level of 108 dB. The animals recovered from 40 min (0 days) to 100 days at which times their inner ears were fixed and the organs of Corti prepared for phase-contrast and bright-field microscopy as plastic-embedded flat preparations. Selected areas identified in the flat preparations were semi-thick and thin sectioned at radial or tangential angles for examination by bright-field and transmission electron microscopy. The following time-ordered events appeared critical for nerve-fiber regeneration: (1) The area of the basilar membrane in which regeneration had a possibility of occurring showed signs of severe injury. Outer hair cells degenerated first followed by outer pillars, inner pillars, inner hair cells and other supporting cells; (2) Myelinated nerve fibers in the osseous spiral lamina became fragmented, starting at the distal ends of the fibers. This degeneration gradually extended back to Rosenthal's canal; (3) Fibrous processes, originating from Schwann-like cells in the osseous spiral lamina, extended laterally on the basilar membrane; (4) Schwann cells lined up medial to the habenulae perforata in the areas of severest damage, apparently ready to migrate through the habenulae onto the basilar membrane; (5) Schwann-cell nuclei appeared on the basilar membrane beneath the developing layer of squamous epithelium which was in the process of replacing the degenerated portion of the organ of Corti; (6) Regenerated nerve fibers with thin myelin sheaths or a simple investment of Schwann cell cytoplasm appeared in areas of total loss of the organ of Corti; and (7) The myelin sheaths on the regenerated nerve fibers gradually became thicker.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chinchilla
  • Cochlea / pathology*
  • Epithelium / pathology
  • Epithelium / ultrastructure
  • Hearing Loss, Noise-Induced / pathology*
  • Membranes / pathology
  • Membranes / ultrastructure
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Nerve Degeneration / physiology
  • Nerve Fibers / physiology*
  • Nerve Regeneration / physiology*
  • Neurons / pathology
  • Neurons / ultrastructure
  • Organ of Corti / pathology
  • Rabbits
  • Schwann Cells / physiology
  • Schwann Cells / ultrastructure
  • Time Factors