Auditory Brainstem Circuits That Mediate the Middle Ear Muscle Reflex

Sudeep Mukerji, Alanna Marie Windsor, Daniel J. Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

70 Scopus citations


The middle ear muscle (MEM) reflex is one of two major descending systems to the auditory periphery. There are two middle ear muscles (MEMs): the stapedius and the tensor tympani. In man, the stapedius contracts in response to intense low frequency acoustic stimuli, exerting forces perpendicular to the stapes superstructure, increasing middle ear impedance and attenuating the intensity of sound energy reaching the inner ear (cochlea). The tensor tympani is believed to contract in response to self-generated noise (chewing, swallowing) and nonauditory stimuli. The MEM reflex pathways begin with sound presented to the ear. Transduction of sound occurs in the cochlea, resulting in an action potential that is transmitted along the auditory nerve to the cochlear nucleus in the brainstem (the first relay station for all ascending sound information originating in the ear). Unknown interneurons in the ventral cochlear nucleus project either directly or indirectly to MEM motoneurons located elsewhere in the brainstem. Motoneurons provide efferent innervation to the MEMs. Although the ascending and descending limbs of these reflex pathways have been well characterized, the identity of the reflex interneurons is not known, as are the source of modulatory inputs to these pathways. The aim of this article is to (a) provide an overview of MEM reflex anatomy and physiology, (b) present new data on MEM reflex anatomy and physiology from our laboratory and others, and (c) describe the clinical implications of our research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)170-191
Number of pages22
JournalTrends in Amplification
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • acoustic reflex
  • auditory prosthetic devices
  • middle ear muscle
  • middle ear ossicles
  • pseudo-rabies virus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Speech and Hearing


Dive into the research topics of 'Auditory Brainstem Circuits That Mediate the Middle Ear Muscle Reflex'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this