High-frequency force generation in the constrained cochlear outer hair cell: A model study

Zhijie Liao, Aleksander S. Popel, William E. Brownell, Alexander A. Spector

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Cochlear outer hair cell (OHC) electromotility is believed to be responsible for the sensitivity and frequency selectivity of the mammalian hearing process. Its contribution to hearing is better understood by examining the force generated by the OHC as a feedback to vibration of the basilar membrane (BM). In this study, we examine the effects of the constraints imposed on the OHC and of the surrounding fluids on the cell's high-frequency active force generated under in vitro and in vivo conditions. The OHC is modeled as a viscoelastic and piezoelectric cylindrical shell coupled with viscous intracellular and extracellular fluids, and the constraint is represented by a spring with adjustable stiffness. The solution is obtained in the form of a Fourier series. The model results are consistent with previously reported experiments under both low- and high-frequency conditions. We find that constrained OHCs achieve a much higher corner frequency than free OHCs, depending on the stiffness of the constraint. We analyze cases in which the stiffness of the constraint is similar to that of the BM, reticular lamina, and tectorial membrane, and find that the force per unit transmembrane potential generated by the OHC can be constant up to several tens of kHz. This model, describing the OHC as a local amplifier, can be incorporated into a global cochlear model that considers cochlear hydrodynamics and frequency modulation of the receptor potential, as well as the graded BM stiffness and OHC length.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)378-389
Number of pages12
JournalJARO - Journal of the Association for Research in Otolaryngology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2005


  • Active force
  • Electromotility
  • Mathematical model
  • Piezoelectric

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology
  • Sensory Systems


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