Myelinated primary afferents of the sacral spinal cord responding to slow filling and distension of the cat urinary bladder

J Physiol. 1993 Apr;463:449-60. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.1993.sp019604.


1. A total of sixty-five sacral afferent neurones with myelinated fibres supplying the urinary bladder was recorded from the sacral roots S2 in anaesthetized cats. All afferent units were identified with electrical stimulation of the pelvic nerve. The discharge properties were quantitatively evaluated using slow filling at rates of 1-2 ml min-1 and isotonic distension to preset pressure levels. Eight afferents were studied prior to and after acute sacral de-efferentation of the urinary bladder. 2. All afferent units were silent when the bladder was empty and responded in a graded manner to an increase of intravesical pressure. During slow filling the level of afferent activity correlated closely with the level of the intravesical pressure. All afferents behaved like slowly adapting mechanoreceptors with both a dynamic and static component of their discharge. With the exception of two units the intraluminal pressure threshold was below 25 mmHg. Thus virtually all myelinated afferents respond in the pressure range that is reached during a non-painful micturition cycle. 3. The stimulus-response functions of the afferents were similar regardless of whether intravesical pressure was increased by slow filling or by distension. However, during slow filling stimulation response functions often exhibited steeper slopes between 5 and 25 mmHg indicating that relatively small changes of intravesical pressure result in large changes of afferent activity. Nevertheless, all units displayed monotonically increasing stimulus response functions throughout the innocuous and noxious pressure level. 4. The stimulus-response functions of the afferent neurones did not change after acute de-efferentation of the urinary bladder, although the rapid phasic fluctuations of afferent activity that are produced by small contractions of the urinary bladder under normal conditions largely disappeared. This means that contractions and distension activate the afferent endings by a common mechanism. 5. It is concluded that the myelinated sacral afferents of the urinary bladder form a homogeneous population which encodes all information necessary for the normal regulation of this organ. Furthermore, this set of afferents mediates all sensations which may reach consciousness within a normal micturition cycle.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anesthesia
  • Animals
  • Cats
  • Electric Stimulation
  • Electrophysiology
  • Female
  • Male
  • Nerve Fibers, Myelinated / physiology*
  • Neurons, Afferent / physiology*
  • Parasympathetic Nervous System / physiology
  • Spinal Cord / cytology*
  • Spinal Cord / physiology
  • Urinary Bladder / innervation
  • Urinary Bladder / physiology*