Tone-evoked basilar membrane (BM) displacements were measured with a laser diode interferometer from the basal turn of the guinea pig cochlea. The olivocochlear bundle (OCB) was electrically stimulated for 60--80 msec periods at rates of < 200 sec-1 via electrodes placed at the point at which the OCB crosses the floor of the fourth ventricle. For tones close to the best or characteristic frequency (CF), OCB stimulation tended to linearize the highly compressive displacement- level functions and to displace the steep, low-level region toward higher intensities along the intensity axis by < 27 dB sound pressure levels. This shift resulted in a desensitization of the tip of the BM displacement tuning curve that was associated sometimes with downward shifts in the tuning curve CF of < 500 Hz. OCB-induced suppression of the BM response was not associated with a consistent broadening of the tuning curve or with major changes in the phase of the BM response. At frequencies in the low-frequency tail of the tuning curve, OCB stimulation had no observable effect on the motion of the BM. The effect of OCB stimulation on the BM response was blocked by perfusing the scala tympani with 1 microM strychnine. Thus, the effect of OCB stimulation on the frequency tuning of the BM is very similar to the effect of OCB stimulation on the sensitivity and frequency tuning of afferent fibers and inner hair cells. The results indicate that the postsynaptic action of the OCB may cause a change in gain of the voltage-dependent outer hair cell motility without observable changes in the stiffness of the cochlear partition or the position of the BM.