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Prog Brain Res. 2006;152:97-115.

Neurochemical plasticity and the role of neurotrophic factors in bladder reflex pathways after spinal cord injury.

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Department of Neurology, University of Vermont College of Medicine, Burlington, VT 05405, USA.


Transection of the spinal cord that interrupts the spinobulbospinal micturition reflex pathway, abolishes voluntary voiding and initially produces an areflexic bladder with complete urinary retention. However, depending upon the species, reflex bladder activity slowly recovers over the course of weeks or months. In chronic spinal animals, reflex mechanisms in the lumbosacral spinal cord are capable of duplicating many of the functions performed by reflex pathways in animals with an intact spinal cord and can induce bladder hyperreflexia. However, the bladder does not empty efficiently due to a loss of bladder-sphincter coordination (bladder-sphincter dyssynergia). In contrast to normal animals in which the sphincter relaxes during voiding, animals with a spinal cord injury exhibit sphincter contractions during voiding, an increase in urethral outlet resistance, urinary retention, bladder hyperreflexia, bladder overdistension, and an increase in bladder afferent cell size. Changes in electrophysiological or neurochemical properties of bladder afferent cells in the dorsal root ganglia and of spinal pathways could contribute to the emergence of the spinal micturition reflex, bladder hyperreflexia and changes in the pharmacologic responses of reflex pathways in the lumbosacral spinal cord after spinal cord injury. Urinary bladder hyperreflexia after spinal cord injury may reflect a change in the balance of neuroactive compounds in bladder reflex pathways. This review will detail: (1) changes in the neurochemical phenotype of bladder afferent neurons and of spinal neurons mediating micturition reflexes after spinal cord injury, with an emphasis on three neuroactive compounds, neuronal nitric oxide synthase (nNOS), galanin, and pituitary adenylate cyclase activating polypeptide (PACAP); (2) possible functional consequences on bladder reflexes of changes in spinal cord neurochemistry after spinal cord injury, and (3) the potential role of neurotrophic factors expressed in the urinary bladder or spinal cord after spinal cord injury in mediating these neurochemical changes.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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