Shining a light on balance and hearing

[Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons

Oyster toadfish (Opsanus tau) are commonly used in research on vestibular physiology, the study of balance. Recent research has examined hair cells from the toadfish’s crista ampullaris, a structure in the inner ear that senses and responds to movement of the head. The hair cells convert mechanical vibrations produced by sound, gravity or motion into signals that are transmitted to the brain by adjacent nerve cells. The new research showed that hair cells could be stimulated by pulses of infrared radiation to send signals to the brain. This type of optical, rather than electrical, stimulation had been previously shown to activate nerve and heart cells in various animal models.

Lab Anim. (NY) 40, 134 (2011).
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