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Nat Commun. 2016 Oct 31;7:13133. doi: 10.1038/ncomms13133.

Hair cell force generation does not amplify or tune vibrations within the chicken basilar papilla.

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Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, Stanford University, 801 Welch Road, Stanford, California 94305, USA.
Department of Anorectal Surgery, the First Affiliated hospital of China Medical University, 155 NanjingBei Street, ShenYang, LiaoNing Province 110001, China.
Department of Biomedical Engineering, Texas A&M University, 5059 Emerging Technology Building, 3120 TAMU, College Station, Texas 77843, USA.


Frequency tuning within the auditory papilla of most non-mammalian species is electrical, deriving from ion-channel resonance within their sensory hair cells. In contrast, tuning within the mammalian cochlea is mechanical, stemming from active mechanisms within outer hair cells that amplify the basilar membrane travelling wave. Interestingly, hair cells in the avian basilar papilla demonstrate both electrical resonance and force-generation, making it unclear which mechanism creates sharp frequency tuning. Here, we measured sound-induced vibrations within the apical half of the chicken basilar papilla in vivo and found broadly-tuned travelling waves that were not amplified. However, distortion products were found in live but not dead chickens. These findings support the idea that avian hair cells do produce force, but that their effects on vibration are small and do not sharpen tuning. Therefore, frequency tuning within the apical avian basilar papilla is not mechanical, and likely derives from hair cell electrical resonance.

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