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The Enteric Nervous System and Gastrointestinal Innervation: Integrated Local and Central Control

  • John B. Furness
  • Brid P. Callaghan
  • Leni R. Rivera
  • Hyun-Jung Cho
Part of the Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology book series (AEMB, volume 817)

Abstract

The digestive system is innervated through its connections with the central nervous system (CNS) and by the enteric nervous system (ENS) within the wall of the gastrointestinal tract. The ENS works in concert with CNS reflex and command centers and with neural pathways that pass through sympathetic ganglia to control digestive function. There is bidirectional information flow between the ENS and CNS and between the ENS and sympathetic prevertebral ganglia.

The ENS in human contains 200–600 million neurons, distributed in many thousands of small ganglia, the great majority of which are found in two plexuses, the myenteric and submucosal plexuses. The myenteric plexus forms a continuous network that extends from the upper esophagus to the internal anal sphincter. Submucosal ganglia and connecting fiber bundles form plexuses in the small and large intestines, but not in the stomach and esophagus. The connections between the ENS and CNS are carried by the vagus and pelvic nerves and sympathetic pathways. Neurons also project from the ENS to prevertebral ganglia, the gallbladder, pancreas and trachea.

The relative roles of the ENS and CNS differ considerably along the digestive tract. Movements of the striated muscle esophagus are determined by neural pattern generators in the CNS. Likewise the CNS has a major role in monitoring the state of the stomach and, in turn, controlling its contractile activity and acid secretion, through vago-vagal reflexes. In contrast, the ENS in the small intestine and colon contains full reflex circuits, including sensory neurons, interneurons and several classes of motor neuron, through which muscle activity, transmucosal fluid fluxes, local blood flow and other functions are controlled. The CNS has control of defecation, via the defecation centers in the lumbosacral spinal cord. The importance of the ENS is emphasized by the life-threatening effects of some ENS neuropathies. By contrast, removal of vagal or sympathetic connections with the gastrointestinal tract has minor effects on GI function. Voluntary control of defecation is exerted through pelvic connections, but cutting these connections is not life-threatening and other functions are little affected.

Keywords

Lower Esophageal Sphincter Enteric Nervous System Myenteric Plexus Enteric Neuron Myenteric Neuron 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Abbreviations

5HT

5-Hydroxytryptamine

ATP

Adenosine triphosphate

CA

Cervical afferents

CGRP

Calcitonin gene related peptide

CM

Circular muscle

CNS

Central nervous system

DRG

Dorsal root ganglia

EEC cell

Enteroendocrine cell

ENS

Enteric nervous system

EPSP

Excitatory Postsynaptic Potential

GALT

Gut associated lymphoid tissue

GEP

Gastroenteropancreatic

GLP-2

Glucagon-like peptide 2

ICCs

Interstitial cells of Cajal

IF

Intestinofugal neurons

IGLEs

Intraganglionic laminar endings

IMAs

Intramuscular arrays

IPANs

Intrinsic Sensory Neurons (or intrinsic primary afferent neurons)

LES

Lower esophageal sphincter

LM

Longitudinal muscle

MMC

Migrating myoelectric complexes

MP

Myenteric plexus

Muc

Mucosa

NHMRC

National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia

NO

Nitric oxide

NPY

Neuropeptide Y

PVG

Prevertebral ganglia

SCG

Sympathetic chain ganglia

SGLT

Sodium/glucose linked transporter

SMP

Submucosal plexus

TRH

Thyrotropin-releasing hormone

TRPV1

Transient receptor potential cation channel subfamily V member 1

VIP

Vasoactive Intestinal Peptide

VMR

Visceromotor Reflex

Notes

Acknowledgements

Research in the authors’ laboratories is supported by the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia (NHMRC). LRR is supported by a NHMRC post-doctoral fellowship.

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Copyright information

© Springer New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • John B. Furness
    • 1
  • Brid P. Callaghan
    • 1
  • Leni R. Rivera
    • 1
  • Hyun-Jung Cho
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Anatomy and NeuroscienceUniversity of MelbourneParkvilleAustralia

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