From hair cells, oscillations and snail-shapes

Seniorenakademie talk on the biophysics of hearing

On May 24th, Frank Jülicher, one of the CSBD directors, gave a well-attended seminar in front of a senior but not less curious audience. Supporting the Seniorenakademie program of the TU Dresden he presented the biophysics of hearing – one of his main research interests. The biophysicist, who is also director at the Max Planck Institute for the Physics of Complex Systems (MPI-PKS), introduced the physical mechanisms within the cochlea - the snail-shaped organ in the inner ear that transmits and actively amplifies acoustic waves. Meeting the particular interest of the elder audience he also described the dysfunctions leading to the loss of hearing. Finally, he addressed the question why some tone combinations are perceived as harmonic while others are dissonant, which links the biophysics of hearing to music.

“I was surprised to hear that our ear also actively sends out oscillations and that there are some structures in the hair cells that are still not understood”, one of the attendees said.

An extensive Q&A session after his talk showed that Frank had met the taste of the senior citizens.

The Dresdner Seniorenakademie Wissenschaft und Kunst was founded in 1994 and is an initiative of active senior citizens supported by the TU Dresden and many other educational and cultural institutions in Dresden. Each semester offers a broad selection of seminars and lectures in various fields to the elder generation.