Profiles for gastric emptying and colonic filling were determined in 20 normal volunteers by means of a gamma camera and dedicated minicomputer after ingestion of a radiolabeled solid meal. These were compared with intraluminal pressure activity, recorded simultaneously from three sites (each separated by 50 cm) in the small intestine by infusion manometry. Recordings were continued for at least 8 h or until all the radioactivity appeared in the colon. Colonic filling was approximately linear, occurring at an average rate of 16% of the meal residues per hour. There were significant inverse correlations (p less than 0.01) between the pressure activity in the proximal jejunum during the first 3 h after ingestion and the times taken for 50% and 80% of the meal residues to enter the colon, and direct correlations between total small intestinal pressure activity and the half-time for gastric emptying. Phase III of the interdigestive migrating motor complex appeared between 3 and 9 h after ingestion (when between 15% and 80% of the meal remained in the small intestine), but did not necessarily migrate to the next recording site until much later. The time of appearance of phase III in the proximal jejunum was directly correlated with the half-time for gastric emptying (p less than 0.05) and with the intraluminal pressure activity recorded at that site during the first 3 h after food ingestion (p less than 0.01). The time at which 80% of the meal residues had entered the colon was significantly shorter in 6 subjects, in whom a postprandial activity front appeared to migrate throughout the small bowel, compared with 13 subjects, in whom this did not occur (5.0 +/- 0.5 h vs. 7.0 +/- 0.4 h, p less than 0.01). These studies have shown that gastrointestinal transit of a solid meal is related to both fed and fasted intraluminal pressure activity in the small intestine.