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Nat Commun. 2010 Oct 19;1:96. doi: 10.1038/ncomms1094.

Tectorial membrane travelling waves underlie abnormal hearing in Tectb mutant mice.

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  • 1Speech and Hearing Bioscience and Technology Program, Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139, USA.


Remarkable sensitivity and exquisite frequency selectivity are hallmarks of mammalian hearing, but their underlying mechanisms remain unclear. Cochlear insults and hearing disorders that decrease sensitivity also tend to broaden tuning, suggesting that these properties are linked. However, a recently developed mouse model of genetically altered hearing (Tectb(-/-)) shows decreased sensitivity and sharper frequency selectivity. In this paper, we show that the Tectb mutation reduces the spatial extent and propagation velocity of tectorial membrane (TM) travelling waves and that these changes in wave propagation are likely to account for all of the hearing abnormalities associated with the mutation. By reducing the spatial extent of TM waves, the Tectb mutation decreases the spread of excitation and thereby increases frequency selectivity. Furthermore, the change in TM wave velocity reduces the number of hair cells that effectively couple energy to the basilar membrane, which reduces sensitivity. These results highlight the importance of TM waves in hearing.

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