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A model analysis of static stress in the vestibular membranes

Pender, Daniel

The scheme of the core vestibular membranes, consisting of serially connected utricle, ampulla and semicircular canal, first appeared hundreds of millions of years ago in primitive fish and has remained largely unchanged during the subsequent course of evolution. The labyrinths of higher organisms build on this core structure, with the addition of the phylogenetically newer membrane structures, namely, saccule, lagena and cochlea. An analysis of static stress in these core vestibular membranes may contribute to a better understanding of the role of stress in the evolution of derivative membrane structures over the long term as well as the short-term membrane distortions seen in Meniere's disease. A model of these core vestibular membranes is proposed in order to analyze the distribution of stress in the walls of the component chambers. The model uses basic geometrical elements of hollow cylinders and spheres to emulate the actual structures. These model elements lend themselves to a mathematical analysis of static stress in their membranes. Hoop stress, akin to the stress in hoops used to reinforce barrel walls, is found to be the predominant stress in the model membranes. The level of hoop stress depends not only on pressure but as well on a geometric stress factor that incorporates membrane shape, thickness and curvature. This result implies that hoop stress may be unevenly distributed in the membranes of the several vestibular chambers due to variations in these dimensional parameters. These results provide a theoretical framework for appraising hoop stress levels in any vestibular labyrinth whose dimensions are known. Static hoop stress disparities are likely to exist in the vestibular membranes given their complex physical configurations. Such stress disparities may contribute to the development of membrane pathologies as seen in Meniere's Disease. They may also factor in the evolutionary development of other derivative membrane structures such as the saccule, the lagena, and the cochlea found in higher animals.



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Also Published In

Theoretical Biology and Medical Modelling

More About This Work

Academic Units
Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery
BioMed Central
Published Here
September 8, 2014