High-density spinal cord stimulation selectively activates lower urinary tract nerves

J Neural Eng. 2022 Nov 22;19(6):066014. doi: 10.1088/1741-2552/aca0c2.


Objective.Epidural spinal cord stimulation (SCS) is a potential intervention to improve limb and autonomic functions, with lumbar stimulation improving locomotion and thoracic stimulation regulating blood pressure. Here, we asked whether sacral SCS could be used to target the lower urinary tract (LUT) and used a high-density epidural electrode array to test whether individual electrodes could selectively recruit LUT nerves.Approach. We placed a high-density epidural SCS array on the dorsal surface of the sacral spinal cord and cauda equina of anesthetized cats and recorded the stimulation-evoked activity from nerve cuffs on the pelvic, pudendal and sciatic nerves.Main results. Here we show that sacral SCS evokes responses in nerves innervating the bladder and urethra and that these nerves can be activated selectively. Sacral SCS always recruited the pelvic and pudendal nerves and selectively recruited both of these nerves in all but one animal. Individual branches of the pudendal nerve were always recruited as well. Electrodes that selectively recruited specific peripheral nerves were spatially clustered on the arrays, suggesting anatomically organized sensory pathways.Significance.This selective recruitment demonstrates a mechanism to directly modulate bladder and urethral function through known reflex pathways, which could be used to restore bladder and urethral function after injury or disease.

Keywords: autonomic nervous system; bladder; neuromodulation; peripheral nervous system; spinal cord stimulation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Electric Stimulation / methods
  • Pudendal Nerve*
  • Reflex / physiology
  • Spinal Cord
  • Spinal Cord Injuries*
  • Spinal Cord Stimulation*
  • Urethra / innervation
  • Urethra / physiology
  • Urinary Bladder / innervation