Spatial tuning curves along the chick basilar papilla in normal and sound-exposed ears

J. Lifshitz, A. C. Furman, K. W. Altman, J. C. Saunders

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Intense sound exposure destroys chick short hair cells and damages the tectorial membrane. Within a few days postexposure, signs of repair appear resulting in nearly complete structural recovery of the inner ear. Tectorial membrane repair, however, is incomplete, leaving a permanent defect on the sensory surface. The consequences of this defect on cochlear function, and particularly frequency analysis, are unclear. The present study organizes the sound-induced discharge activity of cochlear nerve units to describe the distribution of neural activity along the tonotopic axis of the basilar papilla. The distribution of this activity is compared in 12-day postexposed and age-matched control groups. Spontaneous activity, tuning curves, and rate-intensity functions were measured in each unit. Discharge activity at 60 frequency and intensity combinations was identified in the tuning curves of hundreds of units. Activity at each of these criterion frequency/intensity combinations was plotted against the unit's characteristic frequency to construct spatial tuning curves (STCs). The STCs depict tone-driven cochlear nerve activity along the length of the papilla. Tuning sharpness, low- and high- frequency slopes, and the maximum response were quantified for each STC. The sharpness of tuning increased with increasing criterion frequency. However, within a frequency, increasing sound intensity yielded more broadly tuned STCs. Also, the high-frequency slope was consistently steeper than the low-frequency slope. The STCs of exposed ears exhibited slightly less frequency selectivity than control ears across all frequencies and larger maximum responses for STCs with criterion frequencies spanning the tectorial membrane defect. When rate-intensity types were segregated, differences were observed in the STCs between saturating and sloping-up units. We propose that STC shape may be determined by global mechanical events, as well as localized tuning and nonlinear processes associated with individual hair cells. The results indicated that 12 days after intense sound exposure, global and local contributions to spatially distributed neural activity are restored.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)171-184
Number of pages14
JournalJARO - Journal of the Association for Research in Otolaryngology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2004


  • Acoustic overstimulation
  • Basilar papilla
  • Chicks
  • Cochlear nerve
  • Hair cell regeneration
  • Single nerve units
  • Tuning curves

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology
  • Sensory Systems


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