This paper reviews current understanding and presents new results on some of the nonlinear processes that underlie the function of the the mammalian cochlea. These processes occur within mechano-sensory hair cells that form part of the organ of Corti. After a general overview of cochlear physiology, mathematical modelling results are presented in three parts. First, the dynamic interplay between ion channels within the sensory inner hair cells is used to explain some new electrophysiological recordings from early development. Next, the state-of-the-art is reviewed in modelling the electromotility present within the outer hair cells, including the current debate concerning the role of cell body motility versus active hair bundle dynamics. A simplified model is introduced that combines both effects in order to explain observed amplification and compression in experiments. Finally, new modelling evidence is presented that structural longitudinal coupling between outer hair cells may be necessary in order to capture all features of the observed mechanical responses.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 11 Jan 2011

Bibliographical note

Sponsorship: This work was funded by the BBSRC grant no. BBF0093561.


  • electromechanical transduction
  • outer hair cell
  • inner ear
  • compression
  • inner hair cell


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