Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a functional syndrome characterized by chronic abdominal pain accompanied by altered bowel habits. Although generally considered a functional disorder, there is now substantial evidence that IBS is associated with a poor quality of life and significant negative impact on work and social domains. Neuroimaging studies documented changes in the prefrontal cortex, ventro-lateral and posterior parietal cortex and thalami, and implicate alteration of brain circuits involved in attention, emotion and pain modulation. Emerging data reveals the interaction between psychiatric disorders including generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia and IBS, which suggests that this association should not be ignored when developing strategies for screening and treatment. Psychological, social and genetic factors appear to be important in the development of IBS symptomatology through several mechanisms: alteration of HPA axis modulation, enhanced perception of visceral stimuli or psychological vulnerability. Elucidating the molecular mechanisms of IBS with or without psychiatric comorbidities is crucial for elucidating the pathophysiology and for the identification of new therapeutical targets in IBS.
Keywords: Brain-gut axis; Comorbidities; Irritable bowel syndrome; Psychiatric disorders; Psychosocial factors.