Author(s): Gummer AW, Hemmert W, Zenner HP
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Abstract The tectorial membrane has long been postulated as playing a role in the exquisite sensitivity of the cochlea. In particular, it has been proposed that the tectorial membrane provides a second resonant system, in addition to that of the basilar membrane, which contributes to the amplification of the motion of the cochlear partition. Until now, technical difficulties had prevented vibration measurements of the tectorial membrane and, therefore, precluded direct evidence of a mechanical resonance. In the study reported here, the vibration of the tectorial membrane was measured in two orthogonal directions by using a novel method of combining laser interferometry with a photodiode technique. It is shown experimentally that the motion of the tectorial membrane is resonant at a frequency of 0.5 octave (oct) below the resonant frequency of the basilar membrane and polarized parallel to the reticular lamina. It is concluded that the resonant motion of the tectorial membrane is due to a parallel resonance between the mass of the tectorial membrane and the compliance of the stereocilia of the outer hair cells. Moreover, in combination with the contractile force of outer hair cells, it is proposed that inertial motion of the tectorial membrane provides the necessary conditions to allow positive feedback of mechanical energy into the cochlear partition, thereby amplifying and tuning the cochlear response.
This article was published in Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A
and referenced in Anatomy & Physiology: Current Research