Project contract

ESM 4984

Principle Investigator:

John Cotton


Visualization of the deflection of cilia bundles.


Hair cells are found in both the motion sensing and hearing apparatus of the inner ear. These cells transduce mechanical stimulus into nerve impulses. A bundle of cilia on the apical surface cause the cell to fire when deflected. There are numerous configurations of cilia bundles including variations on numbers, heights, and packing. I am investigating, quantitatively, the effects of the various configurations on stiffness.

The individual cilia in the bundles are connected by tip links and lateral links. A current theory is that tension in tip links opens ion channels within the cilia causing the cell to fire.

Progress: (as of Feb. 23, 1996)

A finite element code has been written to model bundles. Because the model is non-linear, the force is applied over many small steps. The model is currently exhibiting oscillations for the material properties we wish to investigate.

A program has also been written that converts the text output of the finite element model into a 3 dimensional solid modeler format (Inventor).


To create an series of applications to visualize the output of the finite element model. This is needed to aid in model testing (specifically stability tests), model verification, bundle investigation, and presentation.

These applications will feature:




last revised 2/23/96