Neuroanatomy of human visceral systems

Project Details

This project is linked to our  research  funded by the US NIH SPARC program.

It is especially suited to students with a strong background in visceral anatomy and tissue structure. You will address major knowledge gaps in our understanding of organ anatomy and innervation by studying mesoscopic and microscopic structural features of organ innervation and the relevant neural tracts and ganglia that connect the organs with the spinal cord.

A particularly poorly understood structure is the inferior hypogastric plexus. This large, complex ganglionated structure includes most of the autonomic neurons that regulate pelvic organ function and is traversed by most of  sensory projections to  these organs. It is easily damaged by pelvic surgery (e.g., prostatectomy), which contributes to post-surgical dysfunction in voiding, continence or sexual function.

Much of what is known about organ innervation has been learned from small clinical biopsies or cadaveric samples, which generally do not support high resolution visualisation and extensive characterisation of neural systems. To address this we have established collaborations with organ donor programs in Melbourne, France  and the USA that are providing new opportunities for discovery in this field.

This project will involve developing microdissection skills and application of new tissue clearing, microscopy and neural labeling approaches to map innervation of human lower urinary tract and associated organs (e.g., prostate gland), or their related neural tracts and ganglia. For postgraduate students, there will also be opportunities to extend studies to several clinical conditions, in collaboration with clinical experts.


US National Institutes of Health 2016-2022
Stimulating Peripheral Activity to Relieve Conditions (SPARC) Common Fund Program:
'Foundational Functional Mapping of Neuroanatomy and Neurobiology of Organs'

Research Group

Keast-Osborne Laboratory: Neural and Bioelectronic Control of Pelvic Organs

Faculty Research Themes


School Research Themes

Biomedical Neuroscience, Cellular Imaging & Structural Biology, Molecular Mechanisms of Disease

Key Contact

For further information about this research, please contact the research group leader.

Department / Centre

Anatomy and Physiology

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