Reference Work Entry

Encyclopedia of Neuroscience

pp 1122-1125

Enteric Nervous System

  • John B. FurnessAffiliated withDepartment of Anatomy and Cell Biology and Centre for Neuroscience, University of Melbourne

Definition

A division of the autonomic nervous system whose component neurons lie within the walls of the digestive organs (esophagus, stomach, intestines, pancreas, gall bladder and pancreato-biliary ducts). The enteric nervous system (ENS) contains entire nerve circuits for digestive organ control, and can function autonomously.

The enteric nervous system is the intrinsic nervous system of the gastrointestinal tract through which gastrointestinal motility, gastrointestinal intramural blood flow and fluid movement across the mucosal lining of the intestine are controlled.

Characteristics

Organization and Relationships

The enteric nervous system is composed of thousands of small ganglia that lie within the walls of the esophagus, stomach, small and large intestines, pancreas, gallbladder and biliary tree, the nerve fibers that connect these ganglia, and nerve fibers that supply the muscle of the gut wall, the mucosal epithelium, arterioles and other effector tissues ...

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