Electrical Resistivity Measurements in the Mammalian Cochlea After Neural Degeneration

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Abstract

Objectives/Hypothesis:

In the present series of experiments, the effect of neural degeneration on the cochlear structure electrical resistivities was evaluated to test if it alters the current flow in the cochlea and if increased current levels are needed to stimulate the impaired cochlea. In cochlear implants, frequency information is encoded in part by stimulating discrete populations of spiral ganglion cells along the cochlea. However, electrical properties of the cochlear structures result in shunting of the current away from the auditory neurons. This consumes energy, makes cochlear implants less efficient, and drastically reduces battery life. Models of the electrically stimulated cochlea serve to make predictions on current paths using modified and improved cochlear implant electrodes. However, one of the model’s shortcomings is that most of the values for tissue impedances are not direct measurements. They are derived from bulk impedance measurements, which are fitted to lumped-element models.

Study Design:

The four-electrode reflection–coefficient technique was used to measure resistivities in the gerbil cochlea. In vivo and in vitro (the hemicochlea) models were used. Measurements were made in normal and in deafened animals. Cochlear damage was induced by neomycin injection into the animals’ middle ears. Neural degeneration was allowed to occur over 2 months before performing the measurements in the deafened animals.

Results:

The resistivity values in deafened animals were smaller than in the normal-hearing animals, thus altering the current flow within the cochlea.

Conclusions:

Resistivity changes and subsequent changes in current path should be considered in future designs of cochlear implants.

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