We aim at characterising the encoding of bladder pressure (intravesical pressure) by a population of sensory fibres. This research is motivated by the possibility to restore bladder function in elderly patients or after spinal cord injury using implanted devices, so called bioelectronic medicines. For these devices, nerve-based estimation of intravesical pressure can enable a personalized and on-demand stimulation paradigm, which has promise of being more effective and efficient. In this context, a better understanding of the encoding strategies employed by the body might in the future be exploited by informed decoding algorithms that enable a precise and robust bladder-pressure estimation.
To this end, we apply information theory to microelectrode-array recordings from the cat sacral dorsal root ganglion while filling the bladder, conduct surrogate data studies to augment the data we have, and finally decode pressure in a simple informed approach.
We find an encoding scheme by different main bladder neuron types that we divide into three response types (slow tonic, phasic, and derivative fibres). We show that an encoding by different bladder neuron types, each represented by multiple cells, offers reliability through within-type redundancy and high information rates through semi-independence of different types. Our subsequent decoding study shows a more robust decoding from mean responses of homogeneous cell pools.
We have here, for the first time, established a link between an information theoretic analysis of the encoding of intravesical pressure by a population of sensory neurons to an informed decoding paradigm. We show that even a simple adapted decoder can exploit the redundancy in the population to be more robust against cell loss. This work thus paves the way towards principled encoding studies in the periphery and towards a new generation of informed peripheral nerve decoders for bioelectronic medicines.

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