The role of the tectorial membrane in the mechanis of hearing
The mammalian hearing's extremes of performance reflect striking optimizations ofthe nervous system's signal processing capacity. At the threshold of hearing, the mammaliancochlea can respond to acoustic stimuli that generate vibrations withamplitudes of a few ֵngstroms. At thesame time, the cochlea can withstand sound pressures that are one million timesgreater than sounds at the threshold of detection. Furthermore, humans can detect stimuli atfrequencies between 20Hz and 20 KHz with exquisite selectivity. For example, one can distinguish betweentones at 1,000 Hz and 1001Hz- a frequency difference of only 0.1%.
Ourknowledge of the cellular processes that underlie hearing in the cochlea hasgreatly increased in the past two decades. In contrast there are many gaps in ourunderstanding of extra-cellular processes that take place in the cochlea. Inparticular, the role of the tectorial membrane - a highly hydrated matrix, inhearing mechanics is vague. In my talk, I will present our analysis of theinterrelations between the structure and materials properties of the tectorialmembrane and their implications on its role in hearing mechanics.