The neuroscience of holding on

October 21, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Research, Spinewave Bulletin 

pee enuresis chiropractic bedwettingScientists are surprised to find an involuntary link in the brain between the pelvic floor and other muscles which help us delay urination.

Wherever you are right now: squeeze your glutes. Feel that? You just also contracted your pelvic floor too, whether you wanted to or not.

Scientists studying the source of chronic abdominal and pelvic floor pain found an unexpected connection in the brain between the pelvic floor – the muscle responsible for, among other things, keeping you from peeing your pants – and various muscles throughout the body. They’ve found some evidence for a link as far away as the toes (try tapping a toe and see if you feel the clench), but the strongest link so far is with the glutes.

“We knew that pelvic floor muscles contract involuntarily in healthy people to make sure they don’t accidentally urinate, but we didn’t know what part of the nervous system was doing this,” said Jason Kutch, corresponding author on a study about the research and an assistant professor in the Division of Biokinesiology & Physical Therapy at the USC Ostrow School of Dentistry. “Now we know that there are specific brain regions controlling involuntary pelvic floor contraction.

Kutch collaborated with colleagues at USC Ostrow, the Keck School of Medicine of USC, and Loma Linda University on the research. Their findings were published on October 8 in the Journal of Neuroscience.

The team used electromyographic (EMG) recordings – which measure the activation of muscle tissue – to show that pelvic floor activation occurred in conjunction with the activation of certain muscles (like the glutes), but not others (like fingers).

Precentral_gyrusThey then used functional magnetic image resonance (fMRI) imaging to show that a specific part of the brain (the medial wall of the precentral gyrus – a part of the primary motor cortex) activates both when the pelvic floor contracts and when the glutes are squeezed – but not when fingers move.

“We hope that this vein of research will help us to find the causes of chronic pelvic floor pain, which disproportionately affect women, and may even yield information that could help people struggling with incontinence,” Kutch said.

Broadly, the finding speaks to the interconnected nature of our bodies and brains, and all of the hard work going on in the pelvic floor muscles – without us even know it.


Asavasopon, S., et al. Cortical activation associated with muscle synergies of the human male pelvic floor. Journal of Neuroscience. 2014 34(41): 13811-13818.


concussion head injury TBI

Why concussions require the right treatment, right away.

This article is based on the latest research from 2014.

A concussion, or mild traumatic brain injury, follows any force to the head resulting in changes to brain and cognitive function.

The force can be of varying degrees and affect each person or child very differently. While concussions share common characteristics – such as headache, dizziness, fogginess, confusion, fatigue, poor sleep, irritability, sensitivity to light or sound – each concussion is unique. There are many factors that contribute to symptoms and recovery based on each individual’s neurological make up, academic load, extra-curricular activities, and history of trauma to the head and neck; whether it be one new blow to the head or lots of minor falls.

If you are a parent, you know your child better than anyone. You will be the first one to notice symptoms after a hit to the head in the first 24 to 48 hours and it is important to get the right treatment as soon as possible.

Obvious major symptoms within the first 48 hours are disorientation and confusion immediately after the event; impaired balance within 1 day of the injury; slower reaction time within 2 days of the injury; and impaired verbal and learning memory within 2 days of the injury1.

These major symptoms can sometimes recover quickly but individuals are frequently left with other lesser symptoms: dizziness, brain fog, vision problems, difficulty reading, poor concentration, headaches or even eye pain.

pursuit accommodation convergenceThe lesser symptoms are often missed because most “side-line” or medical testing only assesses one aspect of function, balance; and balance is not the whole picture.

The vestibular (balance) system is a complex network that includes small sensory organs of the inner ear and connections to the brainstem, cerebellum, cerebral cortex, ocular system and postural muscles of the spine.

There are two parts to the vestibular system: the vestibulo-ocular system and the vestibulospinal system.

The vestibulo-ocular system maintains visual stability during head movements, whereas the vestibulospinal system is responsible for postural control and balance. The vestibulospinal system often recovers within 3 to 5 days of injury but the person is still left with symptoms related to the vestibulo-ocular system2.

Ocular motor impairments may manifest as blurred vision, double vision, impaired eye movements, difficulty reading, dizziness, headaches, ocular pain or poor visual-based concentration.

Current medical testing and treatment does not account for ocular motor impairments.

There are 5 different types of concussion:

  1. Vestibulospinal (balance).
  2. Vestibulo-ocular (ocular motor impairments).
  3. Mood and anxiety.
  4. Headaches or migraine headaches.
  5. Upper cervical or neck problems.
concussion chiropractic upper cervical

Chiropractic neurologists are trained to assess each type of concussion and provide the most appropriate treatment.

The kind and degree of symptoms dictate the length of recovery. Concussed individuals often get medical clearance even though the lesser symptoms persist. This is because many people don’t understand the link between concussion and trauma to the upper neck, brain and vestibular system.

As with injuries to other parts of the body, concussions can leave scars on the brain3. Getting the right treatment, right away, can greatly improve recovery time4

Read more

  • Symptoms (72)
  • Most Recent Symptoms

  • Archives

  • Search

  • Case of the Month

    Reviews of complex cases are frequently researched and updated in this category. Alternatively use the search bar above.

    Video Audio Ebooks
  • SpineWave Bulletin

    Sign up to receive our newsletter: a cutting edge knowledge update including case studies, research, videos, blog, and Dr Neil's periodic existential outrospection.
  • Contact

    09 522 0025
    Suite 1, 102 Remuera Road, Auckland
    Click here for practice hours
  • Social Media