20 research outputs found

    Hair Cell Bundles: Flexoelectric Motors of the Inner Ear

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    Microvilli (stereocilia) projecting from the apex of hair cells in the inner ear are actively motile structures that feed energy into the vibration of the inner ear and enhance sensitivity to sound. The biophysical mechanism underlying the hair bundle motor is unknown. In this study, we examined a membrane flexoelectric origin for active movements in stereocilia and conclude that it is likely to be an important contributor to mechanical power output by hair bundles. We formulated a realistic biophysical model of stereocilia incorporating stereocilia dimensions, the known flexoelectric coefficient of lipid membranes, mechanical compliance, and fluid drag. Electrical power enters the stereocilia through displacement sensitive ion channels and, due to the small diameter of stereocilia, is converted to useful mechanical power output by flexoelectricity. This motor augments molecular motors associated with the mechanosensitive apparatus itself that have been described previously. The model reveals stereocilia to be highly efficient and fast flexoelectric motors that capture the energy in the extracellular electro-chemical potential of the inner ear to generate mechanical power output. The power analysis provides an explanation for the correlation between stereocilia height and the tonotopic organization of hearing organs. Further, results suggest that flexoelectricity may be essential to the exquisite sensitivity and frequency selectivity of non-mammalian hearing organs at high auditory frequencies, and may contribute to the “cochlear amplifier” in mammals

    Mechanics of the exceptional anuran ear

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    The anuran ear is frequently used for studying fundamental properties of vertebrate auditory systems. This is due to its unique anatomical features, most prominently the lack of a basilar membrane and the presence of two dedicated acoustic end organs, the basilar papilla and the amphibian papilla. Our current anatomical and functional knowledge implies that three distinct regions can be identified within these two organs. The basilar papilla functions as a single auditory filter. The low-frequency portion of the amphibian papilla is an electrically tuned, tonotopically organized auditory end organ. The high-frequency portion of the amphibian papilla is mechanically tuned and tonotopically organized, and it emits spontaneous otoacoustic emissions. This high-frequency portion of the amphibian papilla shows a remarkable, functional resemblance to the mammalian cochlea