Scientific reports

High-order synchronization of hair cell bundles.

PMID 27974743


Auditory and vestibular hair cell bundles exhibit active mechanical oscillations at natural frequencies that are typically lower than the detection range of the corresponding end organs. We explore how these noisy nonlinear oscillators mode-lock to frequencies higher than their internal clocks. A nanomagnetic technique is used to stimulate the bundles without an imposed mechanical load. The evoked response shows regimes of high-order mode-locking. Exploring a broad range of stimulus frequencies and intensities, we observe regions of high-order synchronization, analogous to Arnold Tongues in dynamical systems literature. Significant areas of overlap occur between synchronization regimes, with the bundle intermittently flickering between different winding numbers. We demonstrate how an ensemble of these noisy spontaneous oscillators could be entrained to efficiently detect signals significantly above the characteristic frequencies of the individual cells.