Insights into the mechanisms underlying colonic motor patterns

J Physiol. 2016 Aug 1;594(15):4099-116. doi: 10.1113/JP271919. Epub 2016 Jun 9.


In recent years there have been significant technical and methodological advances in our ability to record the movements of the gastrointestinal tract. This has led to significant changes in our understanding of the different types of motor patterns that exist in the gastrointestinal tract (particularly the large intestine) and in our understanding of the mechanisms underlying their generation. Compared with other tubular smooth muscle organs, a rich variety of motor patterns occurs in the large intestine. This reflects a relatively autonomous nervous system in the gut wall, which has its own unique population of sensory neurons. Although the enteric nervous system can function independently of central neural inputs, under physiological conditions bowel motility is influenced by the CNS: if spinal pathways are disrupted, deficits in motility occur. The combination of high resolution manometry and video imaging has improved our knowledge of the range of motor patterns and provided some insight into the neural and mechanical factors underlying propulsion of contents. The neural circuits responsible for the generation of peristalsis and colonic migrating motor complexes have now been identified to lie within the myenteric plexus and do not require inputs from the mucosa or submucosal ganglia for their generation, but can be modified by their activity. This review will discuss the recent advances in our understanding of the different patterns of propagating motor activity in the large intestine of mammals and how latest technologies have led to major changes in our understanding of the mechanisms underlying their generation.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Colon / physiology*
  • Gastrointestinal Motility / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Motor Activity / physiology
  • Motor Neurons / physiology