Purpose: Rat pups only void when the perigenital-bladder reflex is activated by the mother rat licking the perineum. Maternal separation causes bladder distention as well as stress responses and anxiety behaviors in adult rats. We determined if MS would change voiding reflex maturation in neonatal rats.
Materials and methods: A total of 14 Sprague-Dawley rat pups were subjected to 6 hours of daily MS and 17 were subjected to 6 hours of MS with bladder emptying by perigenital stimulation at 3 hours on postnatal days 2 to 14. Age matched controls for the 2 groups remained with the mother. Spontaneous voiding in awake pups from 1 to 3 weeks was monitored in a metabolic cage and perigenital-bladder reflex latency was determined from 1 to 7 weeks. Cystometry was performed at 9 weeks with the rats under urethane anesthesia.
Results: Spontaneous voiding began at 3 weeks in all animals. The latency of the perigenital-bladder reflex at 3 weeks was shorter than the latency at 2 days in MS animals (3.3 vs 6.4 seconds, p < 0.01) but not in control or MSPG animals. MS animals maintained the perigenital-bladder reflex 2 weeks longer than control animals. The spontaneous voiding behavior of MSPG animals was similar to that in controls.
Conclusions: Intermittent bladder distention delays withdrawal of the spinal perigenital-bladder reflex but it does not affect maturation of the supraspinal bladder-bladder reflex that controls spontaneous voiding in older rats. This suggests that increased bladder afferent firing can selectively modulate spinal but not supraspinal mechanisms controlling postnatal changes in voiding function.