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Overactive bladder affects mind

28th July 2008

Having an overactive, or 'weak' bladder, could have a disruptive effect on mental activity, new research has shown.

Headache

A research team led by Rita Valentino, a neuroscientist at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia in Pennsylvania, found that rats that had received surgery to simulate an overactive bladder had a more or less continuous 'alert' firing in the part of the brain that controls alertness.

In normal mammals, the locus coerulus will only be stimulated when the bladder is full, using a complex set of neural circuitry between brain and the inner organs of the lower abdomen.

This means that having an overactive bladder - needing to pee frequently - has neurobehavioural consequences, Valentino and colleagues write in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The neural circuits are designed to coordinate behaviour with visceral activity, focusing the attention of the animal away from its activities and towards an event in its bowels; the 'call of nature'.

But if nature calls too frequently, the rats showed that cortical, or processing, ability suffered a lasting disruption.

The findings underscore the potential for significant neurobehavioural consequences of bladder disorders, which are found in as much as 17% of the US adult population.

Potential side-effects of bladder disorders include an inability to relax, sleep disturbances, and disruption of sensorimotor integration, the researchers concluded.

Overactive bladder disorder is often caused by a partial obstruction of the urethra, for example, in men with enlarged prostates. It is characterised by uncontrolled bladder contractions, leading to frequent urination.

In the experiments on rats, researchers found that the overactive locus coeruleus triggered by the surgically induced bladder dysfunction increased and disordered activity in the forebrain, which controls higher brain function like thinking and planning.

In people, researchers said, this is likely to lead to anxiety, disrupted sleep and other behavioural problems.

Craig Comiter, urologist at Stanford University School of Medicine in California, said the study helped to show exactly why overactive bladder symptoms were so disruptive to a patient's quality of life.

Bowel disorders like irritable bowel syndrome also stimulate the locus coerulus, shedding possible light on the psychological disorders that sometimes accompany the condition.

 

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