hair cell

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Any of the cylindrical or flask-shaped sensory receptor cells for hearing in the organ of Corti of the cochlea, or any of the similar cells in the vestibular system that are involved in the sense of balance and orientation and that enable human beings to walk upright, certain animals to detect vibrations in the ground, and fishes to detect displacements of water. The cell is divided into three sections: a front end consisting of a cone-shaped bundle of 30 to 150 stereocilia (which are not true cilia) together with a single true cilium called a kinocilium, a middle section containing the cell nucleus, mitochondria, and Golgi apparatuses, and a back section consisting of nerve endings that feed in to the nervous system, the cell as a whole functioning as an extremely sensitive mechano-electrical transducer that converts kinetic energy into electrical nerve impulses. A mammalian hair cell responds along its axis of maximum sensitivity to movements of its tip of 100 picometres (trillionths of a metre, about the same distance as the diameter of some atoms), but is totally insensitive to movement along the perpendicular axis. See also Deiters' cell, inner hair cell, outer hair cell.

Subjects: Psychology.

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