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    The cochlea performs frequency analysis and amplification of sounds. The graded stiffness of the basilar membrane along the cochlear length underlies the frequency-location relationship of the mammalian cochlea. The somatic motility of outer hair cell is central for cochlear amplification. Despite two to three orders of magnitude change in the basilar membrane stiffness, the force capacity of the outer hair cell's somatic motility, is nearly invariant over the cochlear length. It is puzzling how actuators with a constant force capacity can operate under such a wide stiffness range. We hypothesize that the organ of Corti sets the mechanical conditions so that the outer hair cell's somatic motility effectively interacts with the media of traveling waves-the basilar membrane and the tectorial membrane. To test this hypothesis, a computational model of the gerbil cochlea was developed that incorporates organ of Corti structural mechanics, cochlear fluid dynamics, and hair cell electro-physiology. The model simulations showed that the micro-mechanical responses of the organ of Corti are different along the cochlear length. For example, the top surface of the organ of Corti vibrated more than the bottom surface at the basal (high frequency) location, but the amplitude ratio was reversed at the apical (low frequency) location. Unlike the basilar membrane stiffness varying by a factor of 1700 along the cochlear length, the stiffness of the organ of Corti complex felt by the outer hair cell remained between 1.5 and 0.4 times the outer hair cell stiffness. The Y-shaped structure in the organ of Corti formed by outer hair cell, Deiters cell and its phalange was the primary determinant of the elastic reactance imposed on the outer hair cells. The stiffness and geometry of the Deiters cell and its phalange affected cochlear amplification differently depending on the location.


    Yanju Liu, Sheryl M Gracewski, Jong-Hoon Nam. Consequences of Location-Dependent Organ of Corti Micro-Mechanics. PloS one. 2015;10(8):e0133284

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    PMID: 26317521

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