- Conference date: 16–22 July 2011
- Location: Williamstown, Massachusetts (USA)
The viscous liquid surrounding a hair bundle dissipates energy and dampens oscillations, which poses a fundamental physical challenge to the high sensitivity and sharp frequency selectivity of hearing. To identify the mechanical forces at play, we constructed a detailed finite‐element model of the hair bundle. Based on data from the hair bundle of the bullfrog's sacculus, this model treats the interaction of stereocilia both with the surrounding liquid and with the liquid in the narrow gaps between the individual stereocilia. The investigation revealed that grouping stereocilia in a bundle dramatically reduces the total drag. During hair‐bundle deflections, the tip links potentially induce drag by causing small but very dissipative relative motions between stereocilia; this effect is offset by the horizontal top connectors that restrain such relative movements at low frequencies. For higher frequencies the coupling liquid is sufficient to assure that the hair bundle moves as a unit with a low total drag. This work reveals the mechanical characteristics originating from hair‐bundle morphology and shows quantitatively how a hair bundle is adapted for sensitive mechanotransduction.
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