Organ of corti potentials and the motion of the basilar membrane

Anders Fridberger, Jacques Boutet De Monvel, Jiefu Zheng, Ning Hu, Yuan Zou, Tianying Ren, Alfred Nuttall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Scopus citations


During sound stimulation, receptor potentials are generated within the sensory hair cells of the cochlea. Prevailing theory states that outer hair cells use the potential-sensitive motor protein prestin to convert receptor potentials into fast alterations of cellular length or stiffness that boost hearing sensitivity almost 1000-fold. However, receptor potentials are attenuated by the filter formed by the capacitance and resistance of the membrane of the cell. This attenuation would limit cellular motility at high stimulus frequencies, rendering the above scheme ineffective. Therefore, Dallos and Evans (1995a) proposed that extracellular potential changes within the organ of Corti could drive cellular motor proteins. These extracellular potentials are not filtered by the membrane. To test this theory, both electric potentials inside the organ of Corti and basilar membrane vibration were measured in response to acoustic stimulation. Vibrations were measured at sites very close to those interrogated by the recording electrode using laser interferometry. Close comparison of the measured electrical and mechanical tuning curves and time waveforms and their phase relationships revealed that those extracellular potentials indeed could drive outer hair cell motors. However, to achieve the sharp frequency tuning that characterizes the basilar membrane, additional mechanical processing must occur inside the organ of Corti.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)10057-10063
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number45
StatePublished - Nov 10 2004


  • Basilar membrane
  • Cochlea
  • Electromotility
  • Guinea pig
  • Laser interferometry
  • Outer hair cells

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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