Outer hair cell active force generation in the cochlear environment

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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Outer hair cells are critical to the amplification and frequency selectivity of the mammalian ear acting via a fine mechanism called the cochlear amplifier, which is especially effective in the high-frequency region of the cochlea. How this mechanism works under physiological conditions and how these cells overcome the viscous (mechanical) and electrical (membrane) filtering has yet to be fully understood. Outer hair cells are electromotile, and they are strategically located in the cochlea to generate an active force amplifying basilar membrane vibration. To investigate the mechanism of this cell's active force production under physiological conditions, a model that takes into account the mechanical, electrical, and mechanoelectrical properties of the cell wall (membrane) and cochlear environment is proposed. It is shown that, despite the mechanical and electrical filtering, the cell is capable of generating a frequency-tuned force with a maximal value of about 40 pN. It is also found that the force per unit basilar membrane displacement stays essentially the same (40 pNnm) for the entire linear range of the basilar membrane responses, including sound pressure levels close to hearing threshold. Our findings can provide a better understanding of the outer hair cell's role in the cochlear amplifier.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2215-2225
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of the Acoustical Society of America
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Acoustics and Ultrasonics


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