FRANCIS LEROY & CHRIS LIPPENS, BIOCOSMOS / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY FRANCIS LEROY & CHRIS LIPPENS, BIOCOSMOS / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Electrical transduction in the ear. Animation showing the mechanism of mechano-electrical transduction in the hair cells of the cochlea, the sensory organ of the ear. This is the mechanism that underlies the sense of hearing. The hair cells of the cochlea are shown in longitudinal section at right. At left is a close-up of a single ciliated cell, with its protruding stereocilia. The process starts with sound waves (left) impacting the stereocilia. This causes potassium channels (yellow) to open and potassium ions (red) to enter the cell (top), generating an action potential (flash). This in turn triggers calcium channels (red) and the entry of calcium ions that bind to synaptic vesicles (rounded). The vesicles fuse with the cell membrane and releasing neurotransmitters into the synaptic cleft. This transmit the nerve impulse onwards. The polarity of the cell membrane is restored to its original state by the opening of voltage-dependent potassium channels (blue) and an outflux of potassium ions (red).
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