Friday Weird Science: Can you pee lying down? Science needs YOU!

Jun 29 2012 Published by under Friday Weird Science, Uncategorized

Today’s Friday Weird Science comes to you courtesy of the perspicacious Ivan Oransky, who was kind enough to send me this paper. And this paper is great. It’s proof that anything is worth measuring if you do it in an fMRI.

Like peeing!

Have you ever wondered what happens to your brain when you pee? What areas might be active which allow that glorious golden shower? What is responsible for that feeling of relaxation and release? That feeling of relief when you REALLY have to go?

….do you have to pee RIGHT NOW? I bet you will by the end of this.

Krhut et al. “A Preliminary Report on the Use of Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging with Simultaneous Urodynamics to Record Brain Activity During Micturition" Voiding Dysfunction, 2012.

The authors of this paper care about peeing. Really, aside from the morbid curiosity, there is good medical reason to know what happens in your brain when you pee. There are all sorts of urinary dysfunctions, and many of them are not just problems with the bladder, but could arise from issues in the brain. So know what parts of the brain are important in your whizzing streams could help us find out what goes wrong when people, say, lose urinary control after stroke.

But still…this is people peeing in an MRI. On to absorbent puppy pads. That’s some good humor right there.

The authors gathered 12 women willing to pee in an fMRI. fMRI is functional magnetic resonance imaging, a technique that allows you to see, with really good anatomical localization, what parts of the brain are receiving more oxygenated blood during a given task.

They put the women in an MRI machine and made them pee. You’d think they’d be so kind as to maybe make them drink a few liters worth of margaritas or at least Tang, or maybe even WATER. But no. No, they wanted pee they could CONTROL. So that means a nice big urinary catheter used to fill the bladder artificially.

I can see a lot of volunteers hearing about that one and suddenly deciding to be VERY busy that day…but don’t worry, it’ll only hurt for a minute!

They filled the urinary bladder several times over the course of the MRI, and had the women pee (I hope they used a LOT of absorbent pads, and switched them out. Otherwise this could get pretty uncomfortable after a while…). And then they looked at the brain.

What you can see here is the fMRI signal, correlated with the moment in time in which the bladder was filled and the women let it all out. And they got some nice signals when the bladder awas full and as the women peed in the parahippocampal gyrus, temporal lobe, and parietal lobe, as well as the thalamus and the pontine region. It’s possible that these regions are involved in things like the sensation of bladder fullness (“I gotta go!”) and the urge to urinate.

But then they found something interesting. Some of the women just COULDN’T pee. Maybe it was the lying down? Maybe it was the peeing on command? Whatever it was, the women just couldn’t go. And you could see the difference in their MRI signal (though the numbers were too low for analysis, so who knows if it’s really real). These women showed increases in blood flow to the inferior frontal lobe and posterior cingulated, but no activation in the thalamus and pontine regions. Maybe this lack of activity is important, but sadly there’s really not enough people who could pee vs. who couldn’t to make a distinction.

And my friends, this is why science needs YOU! Can you pee lying down? Have you ever tried?! If you can, we need YOU to come and get a catheter and pee in an MRI. And if you can’t? Well we need you, too! Would YOU pee in an MRI for SCIENCE?

Krhut J, Tintera J, Holý P, Zachoval R, & Zvara P (2012). A Preliminary Report on the Use of Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging with Simultaneous Urodynamics to Record Brain Activity During Micturition. The Journal of urology PMID: 22698619

14 responses so far

  • Sue W says:

    I've pee'd lying down, standing up, crouching, sitting. When you gotta go on a sailboat and you are seasick, you'll do it anywhere. Sometimes you even hit the containment vessel :-)

  • Glen F says:

    I could not, would not, on a boat.
    I will not, will not, with a goat.
    I will not pee-pee in the rain.
    I will not pee-pee on a train.
    Not in the dark! Not in a tree!
    Not in a car! You let me be!
    I do not pee-pee in a box.
    I do not pee-pee with a fox.
    I will not pee-pee in a house.
    I do not like it with a mouse.
    I do not like it here or there.
    I do not like it ANYWHERE!

  • Pascale says:

    It may not be just the inability to pee lying down. Having a catheter in the bladder, even a tiny soft one, is not natural. Some people may have trouble "peeing around the catheter" as we professionals call it (although if you pump enough into the bladder, it will contract no matter what).
    The other part you didn't discuss was the anal probe to measure intraabdominal pressure. [Anal probe? All those alien abductions were for urological studies without IRB approval?] Multiple tubes, head strapped down in a big magnet, lots of folks hanging about...I might not be able to pee in that situation, either.

  • FACSinating says:

    Why did the study population only consist of women? I would assume a collection tube used on male subjects would be far more practical (and less messy!) than puppy pads....

  • Elizabeth says:

    I volunteer for a lot of studies, but I'm not sure I would do this one.

    Also, what about bashful urinators (is that even a word?)? I had several friends in high school who couldn't even pee in public restrooms.

  • idlemind says:

    I'd think that the stress of being catheterized, anal probed, lying prone in a confined and noisy space, might have more than a little influence on the result. I sometimes question FMRI results because of the artificiality of the environment, but in this case it seems especially likely that the experimental conditions polluted the outcome.

  • Donna D. Range says:

    If you still need volunteers, give me a call at 657-549-7340

  • Darryl says:

    I needed to pee before I started reading. I came here to find out why. I still need to pee and I don't have an answer yet. The search continues.

  • Abi Jones says:

    For me it would be a bit tricky. I use a urinary catheter because I have bladder issues. I wouldn't be able to connect with this article but this is a pretty interesting study. Thanks for sharing your thought and I enjoyed what others had to say about this experiment.

  • tristan says:

    i would happpily volunteer but unfortunately i am in the wrong country. :(

  • Lucia says:

    I think that it would be a bit gross but it would be awesome to try it out!! (I think!)

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