A mechanoelectrical mechanism for detection of sound envelopes in the hearing organ

Alfred L Nuttall*, Anthony J Ricci, George Burwood, James M Harte, Stefan Stenfelt, Per Cayé-Thomasen, Tianying Ren, Sripriya Ramamoorthy, Yuan Zhang, Teresa Wilson, Thomas Lunner, Brian C J Moore, Anders Fridberger

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

209 Downloads (Pure)


To understand speech, the slowly varying outline, or envelope, of the acoustic stimulus is used to distinguish words. A small amount of information about the envelope is sufficient for speech recognition, but the mechanism used by the auditory system to extract the envelope is not known. Several different theories have been proposed, including envelope detection by auditory nerve dendrites as well as various mechanisms involving the sensory hair cells. We used recordings from human and animal inner ears to show that the dominant mechanism for envelope detection is distortion introduced by mechanoelectrical transduction channels. This electrical distortion, which is not apparent in the sound-evoked vibrations of the basilar membrane, tracks the envelope, excites the auditory nerve, and transmits information about the shape of the envelope to the brain.
Original languageEnglish
Article number4175
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 2018

Bibliographical note

This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons license and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/


Dive into the research topics of 'A mechanoelectrical mechanism for detection of sound envelopes in the hearing organ'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this