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Brain. 2001 Feb;124(Pt 2):369-77.

Brain responses to changes in bladder volume and urge to void in healthy men.

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  • 1Wellcome Department of Cognitive Neurology, Institute of Neurology, University College London, UK.


Knowledge of how changes in bladder volume and the urge to void affect brain activity is important for understanding brain mechanisms that control urinary continence and micturition. This study used PET to evaluate brain activity associated with different levels of passive bladder filling and the urge to void. Eleven healthy male subjects (three left- and eight right-handed) aged 19-54 years were catheterized and the bladder filled retrogradely per urethra. Twelve PET scans were obtained during two repetitions of each of six bladder volumes, with the subjects rating their perception of urge to void prior to and after each scan. Increased brain activity related to increasing bladder volume was seen in the periaqueductal grey matter (PAG), in the midline pons, in the mid-cingulate cortex and bilaterally in the frontal lobe area. Increased brain activity relating to decreased urge to void was seen in a different portion of the cingulate cortex, in premotor cortex and in the hypothalamus. Both activation patterns were predominantly bilaterally symmetric and none of the effects could be attributed to the presence of the catheter. However, in some subjects, mostly those reporting intrusive sensations from the urethral catheter, there was a discrepancy between filling volume and urge so that they reported high urge with low volumes. As this 'mismatch' decreased, activation increased bilaterally in the somatosensory cortex. Our findings support the hypothesis that the PAG receives information about bladder fullness and relays this information to areas involved in the control of bladder storage. Our results also show that the network of brain regions involved in modulating the perception of the urge to void is distinct from that associated with the appreciation of bladder fullness.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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