Mechanisms Underlying Overactive Bladder and Interstitial Cystitis/Painful Bladder Syndrome

Luke Grundy, Ashlee Caldwell, Stuart M Brierley

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

84 Citations (Scopus)
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The bladder is innervated by extrinsic afferents that project into the dorsal horn of the spinal cord, providing sensory input to the micturition centers within the central nervous system. Under normal conditions, the continuous activation of these neurons during bladder distension goes mostly unnoticed. However, for patients with chronic urological disorders such as overactive bladder syndrome (OAB) and interstitial cystitis/painful bladder syndrome (IC/PBS), exaggerated bladder sensation and altered bladder function are common debilitating symptoms. Whilst considered to be separate pathological entities, there is now significant clinical and pre-clinical evidence that both OAB and IC/PBS are related to structural, synaptic, or intrinsic changes in the complex signaling pathways that mediate bladder sensation. This review discusses how urothelial dysfunction, bladder permeability, inflammation, and cross-organ sensitisation between visceral organs can regulate this neuroplasticity. Furthermore, we discuss how the emotional affective component of pain processing, involving dysregulation of the HPA axis and maladaptation to stress, anxiety and depression, can exacerbate aberrant bladder sensation and urological dysfunction. This review reveals the complex nature of urological disorders, highlighting numerous interconnected mechanisms in their pathogenesis. To find appropriate therapeutic treatments for these disorders, it is first essential to understand the mechanisms responsible, incorporating research from every level of the sensory pathway, from bladder to brain.
Original languageEnglish
Article number931
Number of pages11
JournalFrontiers in Neuroscience
Publication statusPublished - 12 Dec 2018

Bibliographical note

Copyright © 2018 Grundy, Caldwell and Brierley. This is an open-access article
distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY).
The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the
original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original
publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice.
No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these


  • overactive bladder syndrome
  • cystitis
  • Nocturia
  • peripheral
  • central
  • bladder
  • afferent
  • interstitial cystitis
  • overactive bladder
  • sensitisation


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