The position of an auditory hair cell along the length of the cochlea determines the sound frequency to which it is most sensitive. Receptors located near the proximal end (base) of the cochlea are maximally stimulated by high-frequency sounds; those occupying successively more distal (apical) positions respond best to progress-ively lower frequencies1. At present, it is unclear how this frequency place map emerges with respect to the development of the cochlea. It has been suggested, on the basis of acoustic trauma experiments with developing chicks2 and cochlear potential recordings3-5 from developing gerbils, that this map may arise through systematic changes in the spatial encoding of frequency along the cochlea. Others have inferred from frequency tuning curves derived from auditory-nerve recordings in developing mammals6 and chicks7, that the cochlear frequency-place map remains stable throughout development. We analysed frequency tuning curves obtained from gerbil spiral ganglion cells at a constant location within the basal cochlea, and report here that these cells undergo significant increases (up to 1.5 octaves) in their best-response frequencies between the second and third weeks of postnatal life. These recordings provide direct evidence for developmental changes in the tonotopic organization of the mammalian cochlea.
ASJC Scopus subject areas