The mammalian cochlea is a mechano-transducer—it turns acoustic energy into electro-chemical energy. The cochlea not only receives external stimuli, but emits sound. These emissions are referred to as reverse transduction to distinguish from the acoustic to electric (forward) transduction.
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There are two distinct types of hair cells in the mammalian cochlea. They are inner hair cells and outer hair cells. Unlike the outer hair cells that are attached to the tectorial membrane, the inner hair cell bundles stand freely in the endolymph fluid. The inner hair cells are stimulated by fluid flow. As a result, the inner hair cell bundles are subject to Brownian noise and this must be detrimental to sensing faint sounds.
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The organ of Corti is a micromachine in the mammalian cochlea. The role of this highly organized structure is unclear. We hypothesize that the organ of Corti is developed to effectively transmit the force generated by the outer hair cells to the basilar membrane. Most previous studies are focused on the frequency response of the entire cochlea and greatly simplified organ of Corti mechanics into a two- or three-degrees-of-freedom system.
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