Distinguishing hair cell from neural potentials recorded at the round window

Mathieu Forgues, Heather A. Koehn, Askia K. Dunnon, Stephen H. Pulver, Craig A. Buchman, Oliver F. Adunka, Douglas C. Fitzpatrick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

81 Scopus citations


Almost all patients who receive cochlear implants have some acoustic hearing prior to surgery. Electrocochleography (ECoG), or electrophysiological measures of cochlear response to sound, can identify remaining auditory nerve activity that is the basis for this residual hearing and can record potentials from hair cells that are no longer functionally connected to nerve fibers. The ECoG signal is therefore complex, being composed of both hair cell and neural signals. To identify signatures of different sources in the recorded potentials, we collected ECoG data across frequency and intensity from the round window of gerbils before and after treatment with kainic acid, a neurotoxin. Distortions in the recorded waveforms were produced by different sources over different ranges of frequency and intensity. In response to tones at low frequencies and low-to-moderate intensities, the major source of distortion was from neural phase-locking that was sensitive to kainic acid. At high intensities at all frequencies, the distortion was not sensitive to kainic acid and was consistent with asymmetric saturation of the hair cell transducer current. In addition to loss of phase-locking, changes in the envelope after kainic acid treatment indicate that sustained neural firing combines with receptor potentials from hair cells to produce the envelope of the response to tones. These results provide baseline data to interpret comparable recordings from human cochlear implant recipients.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)580-593
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of neurophysiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 1 2014


  • Auditory
  • Cochlear microphonic
  • Compound action potential
  • Neurophonic
  • Summating potential


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