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The Cochlea

Anatomy of the Cochlea Background

Both music and the structure of the inner ear are integrated in this fascinating illustration of how we hear sound. Sounds from the outside world pass as vibrations through tiny bones in our ear to the cochlea. Within the coiled tube of the cochlea, different regions of the basilar membrane sense different sound frequencies at specific. This animation demonstrates how high-frequency sounds penetrate only a short distance along the basilar membrane. Vibrations from low tones are sensed at the farthest end of the basilar membrane. This animation was designed in conjunction with HHMI's 1997 Holiday Lectures on Science, Senses and Sensitivity: Neuronal Alliances for Sight and Sound. It is narrated by HHMI investigator A. James Hudspeth, Ph.D., M.D., who was one of the lecturers.

Anatomy of the Cochlea Tips

The animations in this section have a wide variety of classroom applications. Use the tips below to get started but look for more specific teaching tips in the near future. Please tell us how you are using the animations in your classroom by sending e-mail to biointeractive@hhmi.org.

  1. Use the animations to make abstract scientific ideas visible and concrete.

  2. Explain important scientific principles through the animations. For example, the biological clocks animations can be used to demonstrate the fundamentals of transcription and translation.

  3. Make sure that students learn the material by repeating sections of the animations as often as you think necessary to reinforce underlying scientific principles. You can start, restart, and play back sections of the animations.

  4. Urge students to use the animations in accordance with their own learning styles. Students who are more visually oriented can watch the animations first and read the text later, while others might prefer to read the explanations first and then view the graphics.

  5. Incorporate the animations into Web-based learning modules that you create to supplement your classroom curricula.

  6. Encourage students to incorporate the animations into their own Web-based projects.

Anatomy of the Cochlea Credits

Director: Dennis Liu, Ph.D.

Scientific Direction: A. James Hudspeth, Ph.D., M.D.

Scientific Content: Donna Messersmith, Ph.D.

Creative Direction: Bill Pietsch

Animators: Tim Alger, Mary Higgins, Davey Thomas

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