Conditioned responding of the neurogenic bladder

Psychosom Med. 1978 Feb;40(1):14-24. doi: 10.1097/00006842-197802000-00004.


Classical conditioning techniques were employed to condition responding of the spastic neurogenic bladder in a man with quadriparesis and urinary incontinence secondary to spinal cord injury at the cervical level. A neutral stimulus of mild electrical stimulation to the thigh was paired temporally with an unconditioned stimulus (UCS) of stronger electrical stimulation of the lower abdomen, and then was presented alone as a conditioned stimulus (CS) to elicit the conditioned response (CR) of voiding. The previously neutral CS reliably elicited large amounts of urine and left little residual urine in the subject's bladder. Following the experimental sessions, the subject self-applied the CS on a predetermined schedule during his daily routine outside of the laboratory. The CS initially was successful, but after several days the CR exhibited extinction. Additional CS-UCS pairing sessions did not reinstate the responses satisfactorily. Aspects of the experimental procedure and the results are discussed as well as the feasibility of conditioning the human spinal cord in the absence of an intact central nervous system

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Abdomen
  • Adult
  • Behavior Therapy*
  • Conditioning, Classical*
  • Electric Stimulation
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Thigh
  • Urinary Bladder, Neurogenic / rehabilitation*