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Trends Neurosci. 2001 Mar;24(3):169-75.

Clues to the cochlear amplifier from the turtle ear.

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Dept of Physiology, University of Wisconsin Medical School, Madison, WI 53706, USA.


Sound stimuli are detected in the cochlea by vibration of hair bundles on sensory hair cells, which activates mechanotransducer ion channels and generates an electrical signal. Remarkably, the process can also work in reverse with additional force being produced by the ion channels as they open and close, evoking active movements of the hair bundle. These movements could supplement the energy of the sound stimuli but to be effective they would need to be very fast. New measurements in the turtle ear have shown that such active bundle movements occur with delays of less than a millisecond, and are triggered by the entry of Ca(2+) into the cell via the mechanotransducer channel. Furthermore, their speed depends on the frequency to which the hair cell is most sensitive, suggesting that such movements could be important in cochlear amplification and frequency discrimination.

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