Convergence and cross talk in urogenital neural circuitries

J Neurophysiol. 2013 Oct;110(8):1997-2005. doi: 10.1152/jn.00297.2013. Epub 2013 Aug 7.


Despite common comorbidity of sexual and urinary dysfunctions, the interrelationships between the neural control of these functions are poorly understood. The medullary reticular formation (MRF) contributes to both mating/arousal functions and micturition, making it a good site to test circuitry interactions. Urethane-anesthetized adult Wistar rats were used to examine the impact of electrically stimulating different nerve targets [dorsal nerve of the penis (DNP) or clitoris (DNC); L6/S1 trunk] on responses of individual extracellularly recorded MRF neurons. The effect of bladder filling on MRF neurons was also examined, as was stimulation of DNP on bladder reflexes via cystometry. In total, 236 MRF neurons responded to neurostimulation: 102 to DNP stimulation (12 males), 64 to DNC stimulation (12 females), and 70 to L6/S1 trunk stimulation (12 males). Amplitude thresholds were significantly different at DNP (15.0 ± 0.6 μA), DNC (10.5 ± 0.7 μA), and L6/S1 trunk (54.2 ± 4.6 μA), whereas similar frequency responses were found (max responses near 30-40 Hz). In five males, filling/voiding cycles were lengthened with DNP stimulation (11.0 ± 0.9 μA), with a maximal effective frequency plateau beginning at 30 Hz. Bladder effects lasted ≈ 2 min after DNP stimulus offset. Many MRF neurons receiving DNP/DNC input responded to bladder filling (35.0% and 68.3%, respectively), either just before (43%) or simultaneously with (57%) the voiding reflex. Taken together, MRF-evoked responses with neurostimulation of multiple nerve targets along with different responses to bladder infusion have implications for the role of MRF in multiple aspects of urogenital functions.

Keywords: bladder; clitoris; medullary reticular formation; penis; pudendal nerve.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Clitoris / innervation
  • Evoked Potentials, Motor
  • Female
  • Male
  • Nerve Net / physiology*
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Penis / innervation
  • Peripheral Nerves / physiology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Reflex
  • Reticular Formation / cytology
  • Reticular Formation / physiology*
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Urinary Bladder / innervation
  • Urinary Bladder / physiology*