The storage and elimination of urine requires coordinated activity between muscles of the bladder and the urethra. This coordination is orchestrated by a complex system containing spinal, midbrain and forebrain networks. Normally there is a reciprocity between patterns of activity in urinary bladder sacral parasympathetic efferents and somatic motoneurons innervating the striatal external urethral sphincter muscle. At the spinal level this reciprocity is mediated by ensembles of excitatory and inhibitory interneurons located in the lumbar-sacral segments. In this review I will present an overview of currently identified spinal interneurons and circuits relevant to the lower urinary tract and will discuss their established or hypothetical roles in the cycle of micturition. In addition, a recently discovered auxiliary spinal neuronal ensemble named lumbar spinal coordinating center will be described. Sexual dimorphism and developmental features of the lower urinary tract which may play a significant role in designing treatments for patients with urine storage and voiding dysfunctions are also considered. Spinal cord injuries seriously damage or even eliminate the ability to urinate. Treatment of this abnormality requires detailed knowledge of supporting neural mechanisms, therefore various experiments in normal and spinalized animals will be discussed. Finally, a possible intraspinal mechanism will be proposed for organization of external urethral sphincter (EUS) bursting which represents a form of intermittent EUS relaxation in rats and mice.
Published by Elsevier B.V.