For research by Maastricht UMC+ and Erasmus MC in The Netherlands into the control of the bladder from the brain, a subsidy of approximately one million euros was recently awarded from the Human Measurement Models 2.0 program. Within this project, more effective research methods in humans are being developed and used, so that less often laboratory animals are needed.

As a result of an aging society, problems with the storage and/or excretion of urine in the bladder are becoming more common. About one in six people suffer from an overactive bladder, with frequent urinary incontinence and a decline in self-care. The origin of urinary incontinence often lies in the control of the bladder and sphincter. This control occurs from the brain via nerve pathways in the spinal cord to the bladder. This is done via the so-called autonomic nervous system.


This means that the control of the bladder is largely unconscious and therefore difficult to influence. In Maastricht, a research facility with a particularly strong MRI scanner can conduct microscopic detailed research into the areas in the brain that control the autonomic nervous system and the functioning of the bladder.

New measuring method

A great deal of animal research has already been done into this control via the nerve pathways, but the results are very difficult to translate into the communication between bladder and brain in humans. As a result, the clinical application of the results and thus improvement of treatment is not successful. In the research project, led by the urology department of Maastricht UMC+: Interoceptive Processing Associated with Bladder Control: Mind the Gap – together with Erasmus MC in Rotterdam, three medical companies and a patient organization – a new measuring method is being developed to measure the communication between the bladder and the brain. better mapped. The super MRI scanner is used for this, with which functional MRIs can be made.

This MRI provides a personalized printout of brain and nerve functions in relation to perception of sensations in the bladder and bladder control. With this precise method, new targeted treatment methods can be developed and evaluated properly and quickly. Because there is no intervention in the body, it can be used safely in humans.

Research grant

The research grant of approximately one million will be made available by NWO Domain Applied and Engineering Sciences, the Collaborative Health Funds, ZonMw and the Top Sector Life Sciences & Health. Research leader Prof. Dr. Gommert van Koeveringe of Maastricht UMC+: “With this research we hope to be able to answer many questions about the still not well-explored area of ​​controlling the functioning of the bladder from the brain.”

Co-researcher Drs. Mathijs de Rijk adds: “In the first instance, the study is aimed at improving the treatment of urinary incontinence. We also want to gain more general insight into the functioning of the autonomic nervous system, which also controls other organs.” “In this way we will learn in a completely new way how the control of our organs works and we will be able to develop more effective treatments tailored to the patient more quickly,” concludes Dr. Bertil Blok of Erasmus MC.

Source: Maastricht UMC+