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J Acoust Soc Am. 2008 Aug;124(2):1080-92. doi: 10.1121/1.2949435.

Medial olivocochlear efferent inhibition of basilar-membrane responses to clicks: evidence for two modes of cochlear mechanical excitation.

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Eaton-Peabody Laboratory, Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, Harvard Medical School, 243 Charles Street, Boston, Massachusetts 02114, USA.


Conceptualizations of mammalian cochlear mechanics are based on basilar-membrane (BM) traveling waves that scale with frequency along the length of the cochlea, are amplified by outer hair cells (OHCs), and excite inner hair cells and auditory-nerve (AN) fibers in a simple way. However, recent experimental work has shown medial-olivocochlear (MOC) inhibition of AN responses to clicks that do not fit with this picture. To test whether this AN-initial-peak (ANIP) inhibition might result from hitherto unrecognized aspects of the traveling-wave or MOC-evoked inhibition, MOC effects on BM responses to clicks in the basal turns of guinea pig and chinchilla cochleae were measured. MOC stimulation inhibited BM click responses in a time and level dependent manner. Inhibition was not seen during the first half-cycle of the responses, but built up gradually, and ultimately increased the responses' decay rates. MOC stimulation also produced small phase leads in the response wave forms, but had little effect on the instantaneous frequency or the waxing and waning of the responses. These data, plus recent AN data, support the hypothesis that the MOC-evoked inhibitions of the traveling wave and of the ANIP response are separate phenomena, and indicate that the OHCs can affect at least two separate modes of excitation in the mammalian cochlea.

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