Dynamics of the sensory response to urethral flow over multiple time scales in rat.
Sensory information from the urethra is essential to maintain continence and to achieve efficient micturition and when compromised by disease or injury can lead to substantial loss of function. Despite the key role urethral sensory information plays in the lower urinary tract, the relationship between physiological urethral stimuli, such as fluid flow, and the neural sensory response is poorly understood. This work systematically quantifies pudendal afferent responses to a range of fluid flows in the urethra in vivo and describes a previously unknown long-term neural accommodation phenomenon in these afferents. We present a compact mechanistic mathematical model that reproduces the pudendal sensory activity in response to urethral flow. These results have implications for understanding urinary tract dysfunction caused by neuropathy or nerve damage, such as urinary retention or incontinence, as well as for the development of strategies to mitigate the symptoms of these conditions. The pudendal nerve carries sensory information from the urethra that controls spinal reflexes necessary to maintain continence and achieve efficient micturition. Despite the key role urethral sensory feedback plays in regulation of the lower urinary tract, there is little information about the characteristics of urethral sensory responses to physiological stimuli, and the quantitative relationship between physiological stimuli and the evoked sensory activation is unknown. Such a relation is critical to understanding the neural control of the lower urinary tract and how dysfunction arises in disease states. We systematically quantified pudendal afferent responses to fluid flow in the urethra in vivo in the rat. We characterized the sensory response across a range of stimuli, and describe a previously unreported long-term neural accommodation phenomenon. We developed and validated a compact mechanistic mathematical model capable of reproducing the pudendal sensory activity in response to arbitrary profiles of urethral flows. These results describe the properties and function of urethral afferents that are necessary to understand how sensory disruption manifests in lower urinary tract pathophysiology.
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