Rhythmicity in the Enteric Nervous System of Mice

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


The enteric nervous system (ENS) is required for many cyclical patterns of motor activity along different regions of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. What has remained mysterious is precisely how many thousands of neurons within the ENS are temporally activated to generate cyclical neurogenic contractions of GI-smooth muscle layers. This has been an especially puzzling conundrum, since the ENS consists of an extensive network of small ganglia, with each ganglion consisting of a heterogeneous population of neurons, with diverse cell soma morphologies, neurochemical and biophysical characteristics, and neural connectivity. Neuronal imaging studies of the mouse large intestine have provided major new insights into how the different classes of myenteric neurons are activated during cyclical neurogenic motor patterns, such as the colonic motor complex (CMC). It has been revealed that during CMCs (in the isolated mouse whole colon), large populations of myenteric neurons, across large spatial fields, coordinate their firing, via bursts of fast synaptic inputs at ~2 Hz. This coordinated firing of many thousands of myenteric neurons synchronously over many rows of interconnected ganglia occurs irrespective of the functional class of neuron. Aborally directed propulsion of content along the mouse colon is due, in large part, to polarity of the enteric circuits including the projections of the intrinsic excitatory and inhibitory motor neurons but still involves the fundamental ~2 Hz rhythmic activity of specific classes of enteric neurons. What remains to be determined are the mechanisms that initiate and terminate the patterned firing of large ensembles of enteric neurons during cyclic activity. This remains an exciting challenge for future studies.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Enteric Nervous System II
EditorsNick J. Spencer, Marcello Costa, Stuart M. Brierley
Place of PublicationCham, Switzerland
Number of pages12
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-031-05843-1
ISBN (Print)978-3-031-05842-4
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Publication series

NameAdvances in Experimental Medicine and Biology
ISSN (Print)0065-2598
ISSN (Electronic)2214-8019


  • Colon
  • Colonic motor complex
  • Enteric nervous system
  • Peristalsis
  • Propulsion
  • Sensory neurons


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