Urology Research & Practice
FEMALE UROLOGY - Original Article

A Pilot Study of Functional Brain Magnetic Resonance Imaging in BPS/IC Patients: Evidence of Central Sensitization


Department of Urology, Centro Hospitalar e Universitário de São João, Porto, Portugal


Department of Surgery and Physiology, University of Porto, Faculty of Medicine, Porto, Portugal


Institute for Research and Innovation in Health (i3S), University of Porto, Porto, Portugal


Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics, Maternidade Alfredo da Costa, Lisbon, Portugal


Department of Neuroradiology, Centro Hospitalar Universitário de São João, Porto, Portugal

Urol Res Pract 2024; 50: 53-57
DOI: 10.5152/tud.2024.23209
Read: 104 Downloads: 31 Published: 31 January 2024

Objective: Bladder pain syndrome/Interstitial cystitis (BPS/IC) is characterized by increased activity in bladder afferent pathways, recruitment of silent nociceptive neurons, and sensitization of the brain areas responsible for pain amplification. Default mode network (DMN) is a set of regions activated during the resting state, which reflect the brain’s intrinsic activity. Conversely, the sensorimotor network (SMN) plays a key role in structural neuroplasticity. This study aimed to evaluate DMN and SMN activity in BPS/IC patients, both with and without bladder noxious stimulus, using functional brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

Methods: Six BPS/IC female patients underwent 3 Tesla fMRI brain scanners. Acquisitions consisted of 10-minute blood oxygen level-dependent echo-planar imaging. The first acquisition was with an empty bladder, painless, and the second was with suprapubic pain. Data were processed using the independent component analysis method with the MELODIC tool from the functional brain MRI of the Brain Software Library (FSL). A semi-quantitative analysis was performed afterward.

Results: The patients’ age was 42.6 ± 5 years, pain intensity was 7 ± 0.7 (0-10), day and night frequency were 9.2 ± 2.2 and 2.8 ± 1.0, and maximal bladder capacity was 260 ± 54 mL. One patient was unable to complete the study. All patients showed a comparable DMN activation in both empty and full bladder states, and all presented high SMN activation whether the bladder was empty or full.

Conclusion: The activation of DMN at both bladder states, empty and full, and constant SMN activation without and with pain supports the role of these networks in BPS/IC. Similar findings have been reported in other chronic pain syndromes.

Cite this article as: Abreu-Mendes P, Dias D, Magno F, et al. A pilot study of functional brain magnetic resonance imaging in BPS/IC patients – evidence of central sensitization. Urol Res Pract. 2024;50(1):53-57.

EISSN 2980-1478