Autonomic Organ Control

We have a primary research area of examining systems-level neurophysiology and developing ways to control autonomic organ function.

Lower urinary tract function and neurophysiology

Bladder control is a function that people tend to take for granted or are embarrassed to discuss. Unfortunately, inadequate bladder control affects a much larger proportion of the population than people realize, even with all the commercials for medications that are present in the media. Many elderly individuals and women after multiple pregnancies have inadequate control and must modify their lifestyle and/or attire. Up until the 1970s, insufficient bladder control led to the greatest number of complications for spinal cord injured patients. Today, improved bladder function remains one of the highest priorities for these patients and other groups with neurological disorders. Neural control of the bladder system is provided by a complex network of afferent reflexes and somatic, sympathetic and parasympathetic efferent nerves from which dysfunction can be manifested in a myriad of ways. We perform studies to understand how the lower urinary tract functions in normal and abnormal states and to investigate neural engineering approaches to restore control. Our research in this area involves both preclinical studies as well as human subjects research that is partnered with clinicians working with patients.

Neuromodulation for sexual dysfunction

Similar to bladder function, problems with sexual function are often embarrassing to discuss. While the use of drugs to assist men with erectile dysfunction is now common practice, treatment options for women are limited. A factor in this deficiency is the relative complexity of female sexual arousal, comprising both libido and peripheral arousal components that can be affected individually or together. Interestingly, many of the nerves that are involved with bladder function also have a role in genital sexual arousal. We are investigating neural control over arousal towards clinical neuromodulation treatments and performing studies to examine the underlying mechanisms. In this area we are also performing preclinical studies and experiments that include human subjects participants.

Other organ and body system control

We have also investigated neural control over other internal organs or functions. Recently we studied stimulation of renal nerves to modulate kidney filtration of glucose, which may have applications for people with diabetes. We have also examined interfaces with the vagus nerve to examine our ability to monitor changes in organ processes.

Check out our publications to see recently completed studies.