Genetics & Physiology of Hearing

Head of Lab: Christine PETIT


Hearing is the sense of communication. It is a necessary condition to the learning of any vocal exchange within a species, including oral language in humans.



An open mouse cochlea: the V-shaped structures are the hair bundles, the antenna of the auditory hair cells.


The cochlea, the mammalian auditory sensory organ, is an electroacoustic organ with extreme potentials. The human cochlea detects an acoustic energy as low as about 10 times the thermal noise and covering 12 orders of magnitude. It responds to a spectrum of frequencies extending up to 10 octaves with a frequency discrimination that can reach 1/1000. The cochlea associates three functions: - a microphonic function, that is, an acoustico-electrical transduction operating in microseconds, - a frequency analyser activity and - an amplifier function. The working principles of the cochlea have been elucidated since the 19th century, mainly by physicists. However, at the beginning of the 1990s, the way in which it differentiates and works at the molecular level was still entirely unknown. Christine Petit considered the genetic approach as the fast track to gain access to the molecular mechanisms of the cochlear development and functioning and choose to address it in humans. As a result, she pioneered with her colleagues, the field of human hereditary deafness (identification of the causative genes and pathogenesis) and protein networks underlying cochlear physiology.




Christine Petit

Institut Pasteur

25 rue du Dr Roux

75724 PARIS cedex 15



tel: (33) (0)1 45 68 88 90



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