Identification of a rhythmic firing pattern in the enteric nervous system that generates rhythmic electrical activity in smooth muscle

Journal: Journal of Neuroscience

Published: 2018-06-13

DOI: 10.1523/jneurosci.3489-17.2018

Affiliations: 6

Authors: 11

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Research Highlight

Gut rhythm



The rhythmic firing pattern of neurons of the enteric nervous system (ENS), which regulate gastrointestinal function, has been revealed by a team at Flinders University in Australia.

They developed a technique that, by combining high-resolution neural imaging with electrophysiological recordings from neighbouring muscles lining the colon, can directly reveal the firing pattern of ENS neurons in mice.

The researchers found that large populations of excitatory and inhibitory ENS neurons generate temporally synchronized bursts of activity that are independent from the central nervous system. These rhythmic firing patterns trigger coordinated muscle contractions, which push food through the gastrointestinal tract.

Since the ENS evolved before the central nervous system, this newly identified neuronal firing pattern may represent an evolutionary conserved mechanism for generating rhythmic motor behaviours. Better understanding of neural activity in the gut could help develop new treatments for common gastrointestinal ailments such as irritable bowel syndrome and chronic constipation.

Supported content

  1. Journal of Neuroscience 38, 5507–5522 (2018). doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3489-17.2018
Institutions Share
Flinders University, Australia 0.70
Flinders Medical Center (FMC), Australia 0.12
Washington University in St. Louis (WUSTL), United States of America (USA) 0.09
Defence Science and Technology Group (DST), Australia 0.09