Voltage noise, generator potentials, and hair movements in the Hermissenda statocyst were analyzed. Motile hairs on the cyst's luminal surface moved as rods through +/- 10 degrees Hz when free and at 7 Hz when loaded with the weight of the statoconia (at 120 degrees C). For hair cells oriented opposite to a centrifugal force vector, rotation caused depolarization and increase of voltage noise variance. The depolarizing generator potential and the increase in voltage noise variance were similarly reduced by perfusion with zero external sodium or chloral hydrate. Cooling, perfusion with zero external sodium or chloral hydrate reduced the movement frequencies of the hairs but increased their range of motion. The same treatments reduced voltage noise variance and increased input resistance of the hair cell membrane. The results indicate that voltage noise and hair cell generator potential have a common origin: exertion of force on statocyst hairs by the weight of statoconia. The collision of statoconia with the motile hairs, not the hairs' bending, produces most of the voltage noise.

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