The primary focus of Dr. Jennifer DeBerry’s lab is neural mechanisms underlying normal and pathological urinary bladder sensation and function. We are interested in both peripheral and central mechanisms, but especially how alterations in the periphery contribute to changes in the peripheral and central nervous systems. Our ongoing projects utilize specialized animal models in combination with optogenetics, evoked and spontaneous behavior assays, calcium imaging, molecular biology techniques, and electrophysiology to gain insight into sources and mechanisms of neural modulation that impact bladder sensation and function.  

Our primary studies utilize cre-lox recombination or viral gene transfer to express light-gated membrane proteins (channelrhodopsin-2, halorhodopsin, archaerhodopsin) in urothelial cells, bladder primary afferent sensory neurons, and other lower urinary tract tissues. Specifically, these light-gated proteins allow for depolarization or hyperpolarization of individual cell types in response to stimulation with specific optical wavelengths. We couple these optogenetic techniques with in vivo and in vitro assays in order to identify the unique role of different cell types and, in some cases their central connections, on bladder sensation and function in healthy and pathological states.

Additional ongoing studies focus on (i) chemotherapy-induced small fiber neuropathy, (ii) growth factors and TRP channels in sensitization and desensitization of bladder afferent pathways, (ii) the role of supraspinal structures in stress-related modulation of bladder sensation, (iii) characterization of human urinary bladder sensory innervation, and (iv) recovery of bladder function following spinal cord injury.

Dr. DeBerry may be reached at 205-934-4668 or via email at