Rate-intensity functions in the emu auditory nerve

Graeme K. Yates, Geoffrey A. Manley, Christine Köppl

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23 Scopus citations


Rate-versus-intensity functions recorded from mammalian auditory-nerve fibers have been shown to form a continuum of shapes, ranging from saturating to straight and correlating well with spontaneous rate and sensitivity. These variations are believed to be a consequence of the interaction between the sensitivity of the hair-cell afferent synapse and the nonlinear, compressive growth of the cochlear amplifier that enhances mechanical vibrations on the basilar membrane. Little is known, however, about the cochlear amplifier in other vertebrate species. Rate-intensity functions were recorded from auditory-nerve fibers in chicks of the emu, a member of the Ratites, a primitive group of flightless birds that have poorly differentiated short and tall hair cells. Recorded data were found to be well fitted by analytical functions which have previously been shown to represent well the shapes of rate-intensity functions in guinea pigs. At the fibers' most sensitive frequencies, rate-intensity functions were almost exclusively of the sloping (80.9%) or straight (18.6%) type. Flat-saturating functions, the most common type in the mammal, represented only about 0.5% of the total in the emu. Below the best frequency of each fiber, the rate-intensity functions tended more towards the flat-saturating type, as is the case in mammals; a similar but weaker trend was seen above best frequency in most fibers, with only a small proportion (18%) showing the reverse trend. The emu rate-intensity functions were accepted as supporting previous evidence for the exiStenCe of a cochlear amplifier in birds, the conclusion was drawn further that the nonlinearity observed is probably due to saturation of the hair-cell transduction mechanism. (C) 2000 Acoustical Society of America.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2143-2154
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of the Acoustical Society of America
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2000


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