[Neurological and psychiatric aspects of some gastrointestinal diseases]

Orv Hetil. 2008 Nov 2;149(44):2079-86. doi: 10.1556/OH.2008.28480.
[Article in Hungarian]


The gastrointestinal tract is controlled by the independent enteric nervous system. It is also closely connected to the central nervous system, and bi-directional communication exists between them. The communication involves neural pathways as well as immune and endocrine mechanisms. The brain-gut axis plays a prominent role in the modulation of gut functions. Signals from different sources (e.g. sound, sight, smell, somatic and visceral sensations, pain) reach the brain. These inputs are modified by memory, cognition and affective mechanisms and integrated within the neural circuits of the central nervous system, spinal cord, autonomic and enteral nervous systems. These inputs can have physiologic effects, such as changes in motility, secretion, immune function, and blood flow to the gastrointestinal tract. One of the most important neurotransmitters is serotonin that plays a key role in the pathogenesis of the most common chronic functional gastrointestinal disorder: the irritable bowel syndrome. It is a biopsychosocial disease, resulting from the dysregulation of the brain-gut axis. Endogenous pain facilitation rather than inhibition, pathologic gradation of visceral perception and reduced threshold for pain are all evident in these patients. Abuse history is common in their anamnesis. Exaggerated conscientiousness, perfectionism, oversensitivity, feeling of deficiency in effectiveness, and higher demand for social parity, neuroticism and alexithymia have been detected among their constant personality features. Females are also characterized by gender role conflict and low assertiveness. Antidepressants and psychotherapy have important roles in their treatment. Also patients with inflammatory bowel disease are characterized by neuroticism and alexithymia and altered mother-child attachment is often described in their anamnesis. Autonomic neuropathy is a frequent and early neurological complication. Reflux disease and obstructive sleep apnea mutually generate each other and their severities significantly correlate. In the celiac disease the most common neurological manifestations are ataxia, peripheral neuropathy and myopathy. Up to 85% of patients with histologically proven coeliac disease have no gastrointestinal symptoms; consequently, measurement of antigliadin antibody titre is therefore vital in all cases of idiopathic ataxia. Complete resolution of neurological symptoms is the result of gluten-free diet.

Publication types

  • English Abstract
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Affective Symptoms / etiology
  • Antidepressive Agents / therapeutic use
  • Ataxia / etiology
  • Celiac Disease / diet therapy
  • Celiac Disease / physiopathology
  • Celiac Disease / psychology
  • Depression / etiology
  • Diet, Gluten-Free
  • Female
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux / physiopathology
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux / psychology
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / metabolism
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / physiopathology*
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / psychology*
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / therapy
  • Humans
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases / physiopathology
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases / psychology
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome / physiopathology
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome / psychology
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / etiology*
  • Muscular Diseases / etiology
  • Nervous System Diseases / etiology*
  • Neurotic Disorders / etiology
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / etiology
  • Psychotherapy
  • Serotonin / metabolism*
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / etiology


  • Antidepressive Agents
  • Serotonin