The study & # 39; Brain in Butt & # 39; leads to misunderstandings about the intestinal nervous system

T The brain and spinal cord can control most of the body, but some parts are handled well without their input, thank you very much! The enteric nervous system, which functions independently of the brain and spinal column, controls the crucial movements of the digestive system to move food and poop through all those tubes. Some refer to it as the "brain in the butt", but as scientists write in the journal JNeurosci is a bit more complicated than that.

In the paper, published on Monday, a team of researchers led by Nick Spencer, Ph.D., professor of medicine and public health at Flinders University, describes new findings about the neurons that control the intestine. Neurons in the digestive systems of isolated mice, they found, shoot in predictably rhythmic patterns. These patterns, in turn, are thought to cause the muscle cells in the intestine to depolarize together, which causes the muscles to contract at once, pushing food from the stomach to the colon. Making reference to those neurons that control the intestine as the "brain in the back" is a fun way to describe this phenomenon, but it simplifies too much a system that has a great evolutionary importance.

  digestive system
Contraction in the digestive system is controlled by neurons in the enteric nervous system that all "shoot" at the same time.

While the enteric nervous system, which some scientists call "second brain", is a highly developed system of neurons that function independently of the brain, it is not actually a brain (and it is not really in the butt, although it is butt adjacent). The enteric nervous system actually seems to have developed first in organisms without a central nervous system, leading researchers to theorize that it could actually precede brains as we know them. Before this study, scientists had already determined that the enteric nervous system controls the blood flow in the digestive tract, regulates the secretion and absorption of substances in the intestine and influences the movement of food.

The new document adds to our understanding of the enteric nervous system by revealing "a new pattern of rhythmic coordinated neuronal activation in the ENS that has never been identified," the study authors write. In other words, they now know that the patterns of neuronal activation coincide with the thrusting rhythms of the contracting gut food. Using high-resolution neural images, the team captured the activity of individual neurons as well as groups of neurons as food pills pbaded through the intestine through the normal process of peristalsis. In doing so, they observed rhythmic patterns of nerve cell activation that had never before been characterized.

Noting that these patterns corresponded to the peristaltic movement of the mouse innards in the form of depolarization of the smooth muscle cells, the team concluded that the rhythmic nerve firing patterns should be responsible for the muscle contractions that push the food and waste through the intestine.

It is not certain if these findings will also apply to humans, but the particular systems and mechanisms in this study are shared among different mammals. Although there may be no immediate medical applications for this understanding, these never before observed patterns of enteric nervous system coordination contribute to a better understanding of a basic animal process and confirm that, although there is no "brain" in the back, the tubes that lead to the butt are very smart.


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