The pathophysiology of persistent gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms in patients with diabetic gastroparesis is poorly understood. Our aim was to evaluate gastric sensation and accommodation to a meal in patients with diabetic gastroparesis and refractory symptoms. We performed intermittent, phasic balloon distensions of the stomach using a gastric barostat device in 18 patients with diabetes and gastroparesis unresponsive to prokinetic therapy and in 13 healthy volunteers. We assessed the biomechanical, sensory and accommodation responses of the stomach, during fasting and after liquid meal. During balloon distension, the sensory thresholds for discomfort were lower (P < 0.02) in patients with diabetes than those in controls, in both the fasting and the postprandial states. The accommodation response to a meal was significantly impaired (P = 0.01) in patients with diabetes when compared to controls, although fasting gastric tone was similar (P = 0.08). Patients with diabetic gastroparesis and refractory GI symptoms demonstrate sensori-motor dysfunction of the stomach, comprising either impaired accommodation, gastric hypersensitivity or both. An objective evaluation of these biomechanical and sensory properties may provide valuable mechanistic insights that could guide therapy.