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1.  The Spatial Buildup of Compression and Suppression in the Mammalian Cochlea 
We recorded responses of the gerbil basilar membrane (BM) to wideband tone complexes. The intensity of one component was varied and the effects on the amplitude and phase of the others were assessed. This suppression paradigm enabled us to vary probe frequency and suppressor frequency independently, allowing the use of simple scaling arguments to analyze the spatial buildup of the nonlinear interaction between traveling waves. Most suppressors had the same effects on probe amplitude and phase as did wideband intensity increments. The main exception were suppressors above the characteristic frequency (CF) of the recording location, for which the frequency range of most affected probes was not constant, but shifted upward with suppressor frequency. BM displacement reliably predicted the effectiveness of low-side suppressors, but not high-side suppressors. We found “anti-suppression” of probes well below CF, i.e., suppressor-induced enhancement of probe response amplitude. Large (>1 cycle) phase effects occurred for above-CF probes. Phase shifts varied nonmonotonically, but systematically, with suppressor level, probe frequency, and suppressor frequency, reconciling apparent discrepancies in the literature. The analysis of spatial buildup revealed an accumulation of local effects on the propagation of the traveling wave, with larger BM displacement reducing the local forward gain. The propagation speed of the wave was also affected. With larger BM displacement, the basal portion of the wave slowed down, while the apical part sped up. This framework of spatial buildup of local effects unifies the widely different effects of overall intensity, low-side suppressors, and high-side suppressors on BM responses.
doi:10.1007/s10162-013-0393-0
PMCID: PMC3705085  PMID: 23690278
cochlear mechanics; laser interferometry; dynamic range compression; two-tone suppression; basilar membrane; traveling waves
2.  Basilar Membrane Responses to Tones and Tone Complexes: Nonlinear Effects of Stimulus Intensity 
The mammalian inner ear combines spectral analysis of sound with multiband dynamic compression. Cochlear mechanics has mainly been studied using single-tone and tone-pair stimulation. Most natural sounds, however, have wideband spectra. Because the cochlea is strongly nonlinear, wideband responses cannot be predicted by simply adding single-tone responses. We measured responses of the gerbil basilar membrane to single-tone and wideband stimuli and compared them, while focusing on nonlinear aspects of the response. In agreement with previous work, we found that frequency selectivity and its dependence on stimulus intensity were very similar between single-tone and wideband responses. The main difference was a constant shift in effective sound intensity, which was well predicted by a simple gain control scheme. We found expansive nonlinearities in low-frequency responses, which, with increasing frequency, gradually turned into the more familiar compressive nonlinearities. The overall power of distortion products was at least 13 dB below the overall power of the linear response, but in a limited band above the characteristic frequency, the power of distortion products often exceeded the linear response. Our results explain the partial success of a “quasilinear” description of wideband basilar membrane responses, but also indicate its limitations.
doi:10.1007/s10162-012-0345-0
PMCID: PMC3505585  PMID: 22935903
cochlear mechanics; laser interferometry; quasilinear filtering; automatic gain control
3.  Forces between clustered stereocilia minimize friction in the ear on a subnanometre scale 
Nature  2011;474(7351):376-379.
The detection of sound begins when energy derived from an acoustic stimulus deflects the hair bundles atop hair cells1. As hair bundles move, the viscous friction between stereocilia and the surrounding liquid poses a fundamental physical challenge to the ear’fs high sensitivity and sharp frequency selectivity. Part of the solution to this problem lies in the active process that uses energy for frequency-selective sound amplification2,3. Here we demonstrate that a complementary part of the solution involves the fluid-structure interaction between stereocilia and the liquid within the hair bundle. Using force measurement on a dynamically scaled model, finite-element analysis, analytical estimation of hydrodynamic forces, stochastic simulation, and high-resolution interferometric measurement of hair bundles, we characterize the origin and magnitude of the forces between individual stereocilia during small hair-bundle deflections. We find that the close apposition of stereocilia effectively immobilizes the liquid between them, which reduces the drag and suppresses the relative squeezing but not the sliding mode of stereociliary motion. The obliquely oriented tip links couple the mechanotransduction channels to this least dissipative coherent mode, whereas the elastic horizontal top connectors that stabilize the structure further reduce the drag. As measured from the distortion products associated with channel gating at physiological stimulation amplitudes of tens of nanometres, the balance of viscous and elastic forces in a hair bundle permits a relative mode of motion between adjacent stereocilia that encompasses only a fraction of a nanometre. A combination of high-resolution experiments and detailed numerical modelling of fluid-structure interactions reveals the physical principles behind the basic structural features of hair bundles and shows quantitatively how these organelles are adapted to the needs of sensitive mechanotransduction.
doi:10.1038/nature10073
PMCID: PMC3150833  PMID: 21602823
4.  Response Characteristics in the Apex of the Gerbil Cochlea Studied Through Auditory Nerve Recordings 
In this study, we analyze the processing of low-frequency sounds in the cochlear apex through responses of auditory nerve fibers (ANFs) that innervate the apex. Single tones and irregularly spaced tone complexes were used to evoke ANF responses in Mongolian gerbil. The spike arrival times were analyzed in terms of phase locking, peripheral frequency selectivity, group delays, and the nonlinear effects of sound pressure level (SPL). Phase locking to single tones was similar to that in cat. Vector strength was maximal for stimulus frequencies around 500 Hz, decreased above 1 kHz, and became insignificant above 4 to 5 kHz. We used the responses to tone complexes to determine amplitude and phase curves of ANFs having a characteristic frequency (CF) below 5 kHz. With increasing CF, amplitude curves gradually changed from broadly tuned and asymmetric with a steep low-frequency flank to more sharply tuned and asymmetric with a steep high-frequency flank. Over the same CF range, phase curves gradually changed from a concave-upward shape to a concave-downward shape. Phase curves consisted of two or three approximately straight segments. Group delay was analyzed separately for these segments. Generally, the largest group delay was observed near CF. With increasing SPL, most amplitude curves broadened, sometimes accompanied by a downward shift of best frequency, and group delay changed along the entire range of stimulus frequencies. We observed considerable across-ANF variation in the effects of SPL on both amplitude and phase. Overall, our data suggest that mechanical responses in the apex of the cochlea are considerably nonlinear and that these nonlinearities are of a different character than those known from the base of the cochlea.
doi:10.1007/s10162-010-0255-y
PMCID: PMC3085685  PMID: 21213012
cochlear mechanics; cochlear apex; phase locking; Meriones unguiculatus
5.  Response Characteristics in the Apex of the Gerbil Cochlea Studied Through Auditory Nerve Recordings 
In this study, we analyze the processing of low-frequency sounds in the cochlear apex through responses of auditory nerve fibers (ANFs) that innervate the apex. Single tones and irregularly spaced tone complexes were used to evoke ANF responses in Mongolian gerbil. The spike arrival times were analyzed in terms of phase locking, peripheral frequency selectivity, group delays, and the nonlinear effects of sound pressure level (SPL). Phase locking to single tones was similar to that in cat. Vector strength was maximal for stimulus frequencies around 500 Hz, decreased above 1 kHz, and became insignificant above 4 to 5 kHz. We used the responses to tone complexes to determine amplitude and phase curves of ANFs having a characteristic frequency (CF) below 5 kHz. With increasing CF, amplitude curves gradually changed from broadly tuned and asymmetric with a steep low-frequency flank to more sharply tuned and asymmetric with a steep high-frequency flank. Over the same CF range, phase curves gradually changed from a concave-upward shape to a concave-downward shape. Phase curves consisted of two or three approximately straight segments. Group delay was analyzed separately for these segments. Generally, the largest group delay was observed near CF. With increasing SPL, most amplitude curves broadened, sometimes accompanied by a downward shift of best frequency, and group delay changed along the entire range of stimulus frequencies. We observed considerable across-ANF variation in the effects of SPL on both amplitude and phase. Overall, our data suggest that mechanical responses in the apex of the cochlea are considerably nonlinear and that these nonlinearities are of a different character than those known from the base of the cochlea.
doi:10.1007/s10162-010-0255-y
PMCID: PMC3085685  PMID: 21213012
cochlear mechanics; cochlear apex; phase locking; Meriones unguiculatus

Results 1-5 (5)