Mapping the sacral visceral connectome for bioelectronic medicine

Professor Janet Keast

Professor Janet Keast, Chair of Anatomy and Neuroscience, University of Melbourne

The resurgence of bioelectronic medicine is rapidly expanding into the visceral nervous system to develop neuromodulation approaches for treating organ dysregulation and visceral pain. This major new target requires detailed knowledge of nerve-organ relationships to design organ- and condition-selective neuromodulation devices and to repurpose existing devices by applying new protocols or accessing new surgical sites. In this presentation, new studies on neural circuitry regulating lower urinary tract function and pelvic pain will illustrate progress in our studies supported by the NIH Common Fund initiative, the SPARC (Stimulating Peripheral Activity to Relieve Conditions) research program. This will include summarising advances in quantitative functional mapping of this area of the nervous system and illustrate technical approaches and challenges unique to achieving our goal of building a “sacral visceral connectome”.


Janet graduated with a BSc (Hons) from the University of Adelaide and PhD from Flinders University (mentored by Prof John Furness). After postdoctoral training with Prof William (“Chet”) de Groat at the University of Pittsburgh, she held a tenured academic teaching and research position at the University of Queensland, followed by an NHMRC Senior Research Fellowship at the University of New South Wales then the University of Sydney, where she was also Director of Basic Research at the Pain Management Research Institute, Royal North Shore Hospital. In February 2012 Janet was recruited to the Chair of Anatomy and Neuroscience at the University of Melbourne and held the role of Head of Department (Anatomy and Neuroscience) from 2013-2017. Janet is recognised internationally in the area of autonomic neuroscience, especially the neural regulation of urogenital organs and the impact of injury on these nerves. Her interest in the neurobiology of pain has focused on pelvic visceral pain and spinal cord injury pain, especially in the context of plasticity of sensory and spinal neurons, as well as the actions of sex steroids and neurotrophic factors.