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Optimizing the Vertebrate Vestibular Semicircular Canal: Could We Balance Any Better?

Squires, Todd M. (2004) Optimizing the Vertebrate Vestibular Semicircular Canal: Could We Balance Any Better? Physical Review Letters, 93 (19). Art. no. 198106. ISSN 0031-9007. doi:10.1103/PhysRevLett.93.198106.

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The fluid-filled semicircular canals (SCCs) of the vestibular system are used by all vertebrates to sense angular rotation. Despite masses spanning seven decades, all mammalian SCCs are nearly the same size. We propose that the SCC represents a sensory organ that evolution has "optimally designed." Four geometric parameters characterize the SCC, and "building materials" of given physical properties are assumed. Identifying physical and physiological constraints on SCC operation, we find the most sensitive SCC has dimensions consistent with available data. Since natural selection involves optimization, this approach may find broader use in understanding biological structures.

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Additional Information:©2004 The American Physical Society (Received 16 January 2004; published 5 November 2004) I am grateful to Howard Stone for introducing me to the vestibular system and for many discussions, and to Michael Brenner for early conversations about optimization. Conversations with Bill Bialek, Eric Lauga, and Larry Hoffman are gratefully acknowledged.
Subject Keywords:biomechanics; mechanoception
Issue or Number:19
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:SQUprl04
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Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:1314
Deposited By: Archive Administrator
Deposited On:10 Jan 2006
Last Modified:08 Nov 2021 19:09

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