Convergence of multiple pelvic organ inputs in the rat rostral medulla

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Electrophysiological recordings were used to investigate the degree of pelvic/visceral convergent inputs onto single medullary reticular formation (MRF) neurons. A total of 94 MRF neurons responsive to bilateral electrical stimulation of the pelvic nerve (PN) in 12 urethane-anaesthetized male rats were tested for responses to mechanical stimulation of the urinary bladder, urethra, colon and penis, and electrical stimulation of the dorsal nerve of the penis (DNP) and abdominal branches of the vagus. Responses to distension of the bladder were found for 51% (n= 48) of the MRF neurons tested. Of these 48, 71% responded to urethral infusion, 81% responded to colon distension, 100% responded to penile stimulation (and DNP), and 85% responded to vagal stimulation, with 62% responding to stimulation of all four of these territories. This high degree of visceral convergence (i.e. 62%) in a subset of PN-responsive MRF neurons is significantly greater than for the subset of PN-responsive MRF neurons that did not respond to urinary bladder distension (i.e. out of the 46 remaining neurons, none responded to all four of the other pelvic/visceral stimuli combined). These results suggest that the neurons processing information from the urinary bladder at this level of the neural axis are likely to be important for mediating interactions between different visceral organs for the coordination of multiple pelvic/visceral functions.

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