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Brain Study Provides Insights on How Women With IC Process Bladder Sensations

Deutsch G, Deshpande H, Frölich MA2, Lai HH, Ness TJ. Bladder Distension Increases Blood Flow in Pain Related Brain Structures in Subjects with Interstitial Cystitis. J Urol. 2016 Sep;196(3):902-10. doi: 10.1016/j.juro.2016.03.135. Epub 2016 Mar 24.

When healthy individuals are exposed to painful stimuli, blood flow seems to increase in specific areas of the brain, previous studies have shown. Now, research is suggesting that bladder-related sensations influence cerebral blood flow in women with interstitial cystitis (IC). The study included 11 women with IC who underwent 3 brain scans: one with a full bladder, one with an empty bladder, and one while being subjected to heat-related pain. For comparison, 11 healthy control subjects underwent brain scans under those same conditions. Under full bladder conditions, women with IC had marked increases in blood flow in multiple regions of the brain associated with pain, emotion, and motor control. By contrast, when women with IC were exposed to heat pain or had an empty bladder, there were some increases in brain blood flow, but the result was not much different compared with what was observed in the healthy control subjects. This differences in blood flow in the full bladder state suggests women with IC process bladder-related sensations differently than women without IC. The findings may help researchers better understand how and why women with IC experience pain.