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PLoS One. 2015 Nov 5;10(11):e0141764. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0141764. eCollection 2015.

Synchronization of Spontaneous Active Motility of Hair Cell Bundles.

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Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of California Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California, United States of America.
Department of Physical Science, Los Angeles Mission College, Sylmar, California, United States of America.
California NanoSystems Institute, University of California Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California, United States of America.


Hair cells of the inner ear exhibit an active process, believed to be crucial for achieving the sensitivity of auditory and vestibular detection. One of the manifestations of the active process is the occurrence of spontaneous hair bundle oscillations in vitro. Hair bundles are coupled by overlying membranes in vivo; hence, explaining the potential role of innate bundle motility in the generation of otoacoustic emissions requires an understanding of the effects of coupling on the active bundle dynamics. We used microbeads to connect small groups of hair cell bundles, using in vitro preparations that maintain their innate oscillations. Our experiments demonstrate robust synchronization of spontaneous oscillations, with either 1:1 or multi-mode phase-locking. The frequency of synchronized oscillation was found to be near the mean of the innate frequencies of individual bundles. Coupling also led to an improved regularity of entrained oscillations, demonstrated by an increase in the quality factor.

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