5 years ago

Two passive mechanical conditions modulate power generation by the outer hair cells

Jong-Hoon Nam, Yanju Liu, Sheryl M. Gracewski

by Yanju Liu, Sheryl M. Gracewski, Jong-Hoon Nam

In the mammalian cochlea, small vibrations of the sensory epithelium are amplified due to active electro-mechanical feedback of the outer hair cells. The level of amplification is greater in the base than in the apex of the cochlea. Theoretical studies have used longitudinally varying active feedback properties to reproduce the location-dependent amplification. The active feedback force has been considered to be proportional to the basilar membrane displacement or velocity. An underlying assumption was that organ of Corti mechanics are governed by rigid body kinematics. However, recent progress in vibration measurement techniques reveals that organ of Corti mechanics are too complicated to be fully represented with rigid body kinematics. In this study, two components of the active feedback are considered explicitly—organ of Corti mechanics, and outer hair cell electro-mechanics. Physiological properties for the outer hair cells were incorporated, such as the active force gain, mechano-transduction properties, and membrane RC time constant. Instead of a kinematical model, a fully deformable 3D finite element model was used. We show that the organ of Corti mechanics dictate the longitudinal trend of cochlear amplification. Specifically, our results suggest that two mechanical conditions are responsible for location-dependent cochlear amplification. First, the phase of the outer hair cell’s somatic force with respect to its elongation rate varies along the cochlear length. Second, the local stiffness of the organ of Corti complex felt by individual outer hair cells varies along the cochlear length. We describe how these two mechanical conditions result in greater amplification toward the base of the cochlea.

Publisher URL: http://journals.plos.org/ploscompbiol/article

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1005701

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