Building a urogenital nervous system connectome

Project Details

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

It is especially suited to students with a background in neuroanatomy, neurophysiology or bioengineering who are motivated by research in bioelectronic medicine targeting the visceral nervous system.

Development of effective devices to control urogenital function requires high-resolution maps of a neural control circuit  that includes

  • neuronal connections with each tissue and region of the urogenital system
  • relevant sensory and motor ganglia
  • lumbosacral spinal cord
  • a brain control circuit linked to the pontine micturition center

Only some elements of this map are known and there are many gaps. We are combining tract tracing approaches with combinatorial expression mapping and advanced microscopy (including light sheet microscopy) to produce digital 2D and 3D maps of the macroscopic, mesoscopic and microscopic level connections made by distinct nerve types.

We are also mapping activity of circuit components using immediate early gene expression patterns after conscious bladder activity, evoked by natural stimulation or activation of a miniaturised device built by our collaborators at the Bionics Institute.

Cryosection of sacral spinal cord showing sensory and autonomic neural pathways

Cryosection of sacral spinal cord showing sensory and autonomic neural pathways that express nitric oxide synthase (green) and nociceptor nerves expressing the receptor for glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor (blue).


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, Cell Signalling, 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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