In Vivo Outer Hair Cell Length Changes Expose the Active Process in the Cochlea
Mechanical responses in the basal turn of the guinea-pig cochlea are measured with low-level broad-band noise as the acoustical stimulus [for details see de Boer and Nuttall, J. Acoust. Soc. Am. 101, 3583-3592 (1997)]. Results are interpreted within the framework of a classical three-dimensional model of the cochlea that belongs to a very wide class of nonlinear models. The use of linear-systems analysis for this class of nonlinear models has been justified earlier [de Boer, Audit. Neurosci. 3, 377-388 (1997)]. The data are subjected to inverse analysis with the aim to recover the "effective basilar-membrane impedance." This is a parameter function that, when inserted into the model, produces a model response, the "resynthesized" response, that is similar to the measured response. With present-day solution methods, resynthesis leads back to an almost perfect replica of the original response in the spatial domain. It is demonstrated in this paper that this also applies to the response in the frequency domain and in the time domain. This paper further reports details with regard to geometrical properties of the model employed. Two three-dimensional models are studied; one has its dimensions close to that of the real cochlea, the other is a stylized model which has homogeneous geometry over its length. In spite of the geometric differences the recovered impedance functions are very similar. An impedance function computed for one model can be used in resynthesis of the response in the other one, and this leads to global amplitude deviations between original and resynthesized response functions not exceeding 8 dB. Discrepancies are much larger (particularly in the phase) when a two-dimensional model is compared with a three-dimensional model. It is concluded that a stylized three-dimensional model with homogeneous geometric parameters will give sufficient information in further work on unraveling cochlear function via inverse analysis. In all cases of a sensitive cochlea stimulated by a signal with a stimulus level of 50 dB SPL per octave or less, the resulting basilar-membrane impedance is found to be locally active, that is, the impedance function shows a region where the basilar membrane is able to amplify acoustic power or to reduce dissipation of power by the organ of Corti. Finally, the influence of deliberate errors added to the data is discussed in order to judge the accuracy of the results.