It is generally believed that the micromechanics of active cochlear transduction mature later than passive elements among altricial mammals. One consequence of this developmental order is the loss of transduction linearity, because an active, physiologically vulnerable process is superimposed on the passive elements of transduction. A triad of sensory advantage is gained as a consequence of acquiring active mechanics; sensitivity and frequency selectivity (frequency tuning) are enhanced and dynamic operating range increases. Evidence supporting this view is provided in this study by tracking the development of tuning curves in BALB/c mice. Active transduction, commonly known as cochlear amplification, enhances sensitivity in a narrow frequency band associated with the "tip" of the tuning curve. Passive aspects of transduction were assessed by considering the thresholds of responses elicited from the tuning curve "tail," a frequency region that lies below the active transduction zone. The magnitude of cochlear amplification was considered by computing tuning curve tip-to-tail ratios, a commonly used index of active transduction gain. Tuning curve tip thresholds, frequency selectivity and tip-to-tail ratios, all indices of the functional status of active biomechanics, matured between 2 and 7 days after tail thresholds achieved adultlike values. Additionally, two-tone suppression, another product of active cochlear transduction, was first observed in association with the earliest appearance of tuning curve tips and matured along an equivalent time course. These findings support a traditional view of development in which the maturation of passive transduction precedes the maturation of active mechanics in the most sensitive region of the mouse cochlea.
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