The concept of peripheral modulation of bladder sensation
Eastham JE, Gillespie JI. Organogenesis. 2013 Aug 5;9(3). [Epub ahead of print]


Uro-physiology Research Group; The Dental and Medical School; Newcastle University; Newcastle upon Tyne, England.


It is recognized that, as the bladder fills, there is a corresponding increase in sensation. This awareness of the volume in the bladder is then used in a complex decision making process to determine if there is a need to void. It is also part of everyday experience that, when the bladder is full and sensations strong, these sensations can be suppressed and the desire to void postponed. The obvious explanation for such altered perceptions is that they occur centrally. However, this may not be the only mechanism. There are data to suggest that descending neural influences and local factors might regulate the sensitivity of the systems within the bladder wall generating afferent activity. Specifically, evidence is accumulating to suggest that the motor-sensory system within the bladder wall is influenced in this way. The motor-sensory system, first described over 100 years ago, appears to be a key component in the afferent outflow, the afferent "noise," generated within the bladder wall. However, the presence and possible importance of this complex system in the generation of bladder sensation has been overlooked in recent years. As the bladder fills the motor activity increases, driven by cholinergic inputs and modulated, possibly, by sympathetic inputs. In this way information on bladder volume can be transmitted to the CNS. It can be argued that the ability to alter the sensitivity of the mechanisms generating the motor component of this motor-sensory system represents a possible indirect way to influence afferent activity and so the perception of bladder volume centrally. Furthermore, it is emerging that the apparent modulation of sensation by drugs to alleviate the symptoms of overactive bladder (OAB), the anti-cholinergics and the new generation of drugs the β 3 sympathomimetics, may be the result of their ability to modulate the motor component of the motor sensory system. The possibility of controlling sensation, physiologically and pharmacologically, by influencing afferent firing at its point of origin is a "new" concept in bladder physiology. It is one that deserves careful consideration as it might have wider implications for our understanding of bladder pathology and in the development of new therapeutic drugs. In this overview, evidence for the concept peripheral modulation of bladder afferent outflow is explored.