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MRI scans reveal how the brain tells the body to pee

Brain scans of men taken before, during and after they urinate show that the insula, thalamus, brainstem and prefrontal cortex (red) are associated with successfully initiating the bodily function.

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Guest post by Laura Sanders

An adventurous brain scanning study reveals how the brain can turn a bladder shy. The results, published June 26 in Cerebral Cortex, may ultimately point to treatments for people with lower urinary tract dysfunction.

While lying inside an MRI tube, 22 men attempted to urinate into an external catheter. Fifteen men rose to the challenge, while 7 were unable to go. Brain regions associated with successful urination initiation included the insula, thalamus, brainstem and prefrontal cortex. Activity in these regions peaked just before the participant began urinating and then fell as urination began, researchers found. 

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