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Voltage Responses to Tones of Outer Hair Cells in the Basal Turn of the Guinea-Pig Cochlea: Significance for Electromotility and Desensitization

I. J. Russell, M. Kossl


Voltage responses were recorded from outer hair cells (OHCS) in the basal coil of the guinea-pig cochlea in response to tones at frequencies above the characteristic frequency (CF) presented together with a 100 Hz tone at 80 dB or 85 dB sound pressure level (SPL). The amplitude and polarity of voltage responses to a 100 Hz, 85 dB SPL tone were altered when presented together with tones at frequencies above CF according to the frequency and level of the high-frequency tone. OHC phasic (ac) (> 500 $\mu $V) but not tonic (dc) voltage responses were elicited by the high-frequency tone. Thus the responses of OHCS to low-frequency tones can be altered when presented together with a high-frequency tone without an apparent dc change in membrane potential. Recordings were made from an OHC during cochlear desensitization through exposure to an intense tone. The maximum voltage response to high-level low-frequency tones remained unchanged, although the OHC response to high-frequency tones became less sensitive to low-level stimuli and more linear as a function of level. It is suggested that desensitization is associated with a change in the mechanical properties of the cochlea, possibly associated with the OHCS themselves, and not with inactivation of the transducer channels. The amplitude of the OHC ac voltage response was measured at neural threshold, and the consequences of these measurements on hair cell electromotility are considered.

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