The Spatial Origins of Cochlear Amplification Assessed by Stimulus-Frequency Otoacoustic Emissions

Shawn S. Goodman, Choongheon Lee, John J. Guinan, Jeffery T. Lichtenhan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Cochlear amplification of basilar membrane traveling waves is thought to occur between a tone's characteristic frequency (CF) place and within one octave basal of the CF. Evidence for this view comes only from the cochlear base. Stimulus-frequency otoacoustic emissions (SFOAEs) provide a noninvasive alternative to direct measurements of cochlear motion that can be measured across a wide range of CF regions. Coherent reflection theory indicates that SFOAEs arise mostly from the peak region of the traveling wave, but several studies using far-basal suppressor tones claimed that SFOAE components originate many octaves basal of CF. We measured SFOAEs while perfusing guinea pig cochleas from apex to base with salicylate or KCl solutions that reduced outer-hair-cell function and SFOAE amplification. Solution effects on inner hair cells reduced auditory nerve compound action potentials (CAPs) and provided reference times for when solutions reached the SFOAE-frequency CF region. As solution flowed from apex to base, SFOAE reductions generally occurred later than CAP reductions and showed that the effects of cochlear amplification usually peaked ∼1/2 octave basal of the CF region. For tones ≥2 kHz, cochlear amplification typically extended ∼1.5 octaves basal of CF, and the data are consistent with coherent reflection theory. SFOAE amplification did not extend to the basal end of the cochlea, even though reticular lamina motion is amplified in this region, which indicates that reticular lamina motion is not directly coupled to basilar membrane traveling waves. Previous reports of SFOAE-frequency residuals produced by suppressor frequencies far above the SFOAE frequency are most likely due to additional sources created by the suppressor. For some tones <2 kHz, SFOAE amplification extended two octaves apical of CF, which highlights that different vibratory motions produce SFOAEs and CAPs, and that the amplification region depends on the cochlear mode of motion considered. The concept that there is a single “cochlear amplification region” needs to be revised.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1183-1195
Number of pages13
JournalBiophysical Journal
Issue number5
StatePublished - Mar 10 2020


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