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Fellows Directory

Ian Russell


Ian Russell has conducted key studies on the mechanisms of hair cell action in the mammalian cochlea, and the lateral line system of fishes and amphibians. His early work (1965–1976) examined the efferent innervation of hair cells. He showed for the first time that efferent activity causes hyperpolarisation and results in the suppression of stimulation caused by active movement of the animal.

In 1977, Ian and Peter Sellick recorded intracellularly from the cochlear hair cells of living guinea pigs during acoustic stimulation. This pioneering work showed for the first time that the receptors were as sharply tuned as the afferent nerve fibres, and this called into question the supposedly broad tuning of the basilar membrane. Subsequent recordings from outer and inner hair cells led Ian to propose a duality of function; the inner hair cells being sensory and the outer hair cells essentially motor.

Since 1989, Ian has investigated cochlea physiology, including roles in sensory processing of the tectorial membrane, efferent innervation and supporting cells, and mechanisms of bat echolocation and mosquito acoustic communication.

Interest and expertise

Subject groups

  • Anatomy, physiology and neurosciences
    • Physiology incl biophysics of cells (non-clinical)


Hearing, Deafness, Neurophysiology, Biomechanics, Insect vectors, Animal behavior, Auditory system, Echolocation, Bioacoustics, Biophysics

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