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Hear Res. 1999 May;131(1-2):39-46.

The radial pattern of basilar membrane motion evoked by electric stimulation of the cochlea.

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Oregon Hearing Research Center, Department of Otolaryngology/Head and Neck Surgery, Oregon Health Sciences University, Portland 97201-3098, USA.


Electric current applied to the cochlea can evoke in situ electromotile responses of the organ of Corti. These nonsound-generated responses can give insight into the mechanics of the organ as the putative forces produced by outer hair cells (OHC) must couple to the modes of vibration of the basilar membrane (BM). In this study, platinum-iridium wire electrodes were positioned into the scala vestibuli and scala tympani of the first cochlear turn in the guinea pig. Current (1.5 ms rectangular-shaped pulses) was applied to these electrodes at levels to 500 microA peak. A laser Doppler velocimeter was used to record the velocity or displacement of the basilar membrane at the tonotopic 18 kHz place via an opening into the scala tympani of the first cochlear turn. Beads were positioned across the width of the BM so that the velocity or displacement of the BM could be studied in the radial direction. It was found that the current pulses evoked linear displacements of up to 2 nm for current levels of 500 microA (higher levels were damaging to the organ of Corti). The pattern of motion across the width of the BM was such that maximum displacement and velocity was located near the first row of OHCs and the position of the outer pillar cell footplate. The BM motion was biphasic in that the zona arcuata moved in the opposite direction to that of the zona pectinata. The results of this study demonstrate that the level of force produced by OHCs is effective in moving the BM and that the distribution of force within the organ of Corti leads to a multimodal motion pattern of the BM for this experimentally artificial means of evoking OHC motion.

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