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[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT:
With more than 100 studies published over the past two decades, functional brain imaging research in gastroenterology has become an established field; one that has enabled improved insight into the supraspinal responses evoked by gastrointestinal stimulation both in health and disease. However, there remains considerable inter-study variation in the published results, largely owing to methodological differences in stimulation and recording techniques, heterogeneous patient selection, lack of control for psychological factors and so on. These issues with reproducibility, although not unique to studies of the gastrointestinal tract, can lead to unjustified inferences. To obtain consistent and more clinically relevant results, there is a need to optimize and standardize brain imaging studies across different centres. In addition, the use of complementary and more novel brain imaging modalities and analyses, which are now being used in other fields of research, might help unravel the factors at play in functional gastrointestinal disorders. This Review highlights the areas in which functional brain imaging has been useful and what it has revealed, the areas that are in need of improvement, and finally suggestions for future directions.