I am reading about the mechanics of the basilar membrane in the inner ear. In various publications, it is said that, at a specific position on the basilar membrane, the outer hair cells are activated by the amount of basilar membrane displacement while the IHC are activited by its velocity.

As far as I know each position on the basilar membrane vibrates at a characteristic frequency. Given that the to-and-fro movements have the same frequency at all sound intensities, isn't the velocity be directly proportional to the membrane displacement? If that is the case, does this mean that the activation curve is steeper at higher frequencies?

Thank you!

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Interesting question. Can you link those publications and indicate where you found these claims? I'm really curious. $\endgroup$
    – AliceD
    Aug 24, 2020 at 18:41
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    $\begingroup$ Dear Alice, please excuse my late response, I was on a holiday. I will find the papers and send you a link as soon as I get the chance. $\endgroup$
    – Marina
    Sep 6, 2020 at 19:30
  • $\begingroup$ Any chance you can provide those papers by any chance? $\endgroup$
    – AliceD
    Sep 9, 2020 at 21:13
  • $\begingroup$ Only the inner hair cells are stimulated by the movement of the basilar membrane. The outer hair cells are active elements that contract and elongate in response to sound, in a way not fully understood, but no doubt helping increase sensitivity and likely also frequency resolution of the hearing. $\endgroup$
    – user69929
    Apr 24, 2022 at 12:42


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