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This video is what about sound is and how

we hear it.
I am going to talk about the physical
of sound, as well as how our ears detect
that physical stimulus, and how our brains
convert that
physical stimulus into an electrical
signal used by neurons.
Sound is what's called a pressure wave.
It involves molecules being compressed
and spaced apart, something like this.
A sound wave in air involves areas in
which the air molecules are quite dense.
And this is called the compression phases
of the sound wave.
And they alternate with areas where the
air molecules
are less dense, like there and there, and
And those regions are called rarefaction.
You can make a graph of the air
pressure versus time and it looks
something like this.
So, an air wave like this which has areas
high density of molecules followed by low
density of molecules.
The air pressure would be plotted like so.
And we can characterize this sound wave as
having two features.
Having a wavelength and having an
Sound waves enter the ear canal and cause
vibration of the ear drum or tympanic
Vibrations of the ear drum are then
transmitted through bones of the middle
The malleus, the incus, and the stapes.
These three bones here, here, and here,
transmit the vibrations to
another membrane located deep within your
inner ear called the oval window.
Behind the oval window is a fluid filled
kind of a snail shaped structure called
the cochlea.
The bones of the middle ear serve to
provide a mechanical advantage taking a
pressure wave
in air and allowing it to create a
pressure wave in, in fluid inside the
The cochlea is where these vibrations are
into a neural signal, and here's how this
The vibration of sound.
The air pressure wave comes down the ear
canal and causes the ear drum to vibrate.
The bones of the middle, middle ear then
transmit those vibrations.
And here's the oval window.
The oval window then vibrates.
And this section of this diagram is the
cochlea, this section right here.
Then it is unfurled so that you can
visualize how exactly this works.
So the vibrations are, have been
into the fluid inside the cochlea, and
they cause a membrane inside the cochlea
to oscillate in time with the, those
This membrane is called the Basilar
It is free-floating at one end so that it
can oscillate in the fluid.
It is lying just underneath a more rigid
membrane called the Tectorial membrane.
And as the Basilar membrane oscillates it
causes some special cells that are sitting
on top of the Basilar membrane to kind of
bump into that Tectorial membrane.
So, in the next slide I'll show you how
that works.
So, in the next picture you're going to be
looking at a cross-section here through
this uncoiled cochlea.
looking at that cross-section, here's our
Tectorial membrane, here's our Basilar
As sound enters this structure, the
membrane begins starts to move up and
These hair cells located on top of the
Basilar membrane have
little cilia or hairs that are embedded in
the Tectorial membrane.
And as the Basilar membrane goes up and
down, those hair cells bend back and
They're kind of scraping the roof formed
by the Tectorial membrane.
And this is how auditory transduction
We've got our oscillating Basilar membrane
and our rigid Tectorial
membrane and hair cells riding that wave
on the Basilar membrane.
As those cell hairs ride that wave, their
hairs deflect and it looks something like
As the Basilar membrane moves up and down,
the hairs deflect back and forth.
What is special about those hairs
back and forth is what happens next.
It involves ion channels being opened and
closed by those deflections.
The mechanical forces affecting the hairs
them to open and close ion channels that
allow two positively charged kinds of
ions, potassium
or calcium, to flow into the hair cell.
That in turn, changes the electrical
potential inside the neuron
and serves to convert that mechanical
signal into an electrical one.
One thing that's missing here is that
really nothing in the way that sound waves
converted into an electrical signal in
neurons that
involves anything about the spatial
location of the stimulus.
A sound coming from here and a sound
coming from here enter the same ear canal.
They pass along that ear canal.
They cause the eardrum to vibrate and so
As the sound wave enters the ear canal,
about where it might have come from is
It is no longer a characteristic of that
sound wave.
But nevertheless, we are able to hear
where sounds are coming from.
How does the brain localize sounds if it
doesn't have image-forming ears to help it
do so?
That's what I'll talk about in the next