The brain-gut axis in abdominal pain syndromes.

Center for Neurobiology of Stress, Division of Digestive Diseases, Department of Medicine, David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles, California, USA.
Annual review of medicine (Impact Factor: 15.48). 02/2011; 62:381-96. DOI: 10.1146/annurev-med-012309-103958
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT The importance of bidirectional brain-gut interactions in gastrointestinal (GI) illness is increasingly recognized, most prominently in the area of functional GI syndromes such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), functional dyspepsia, and functional chest pain. The brain receives a constant stream of interoceptive input from the GI tract, integrates this information with other interoceptive information from the body and with contextual information from the environment, and sends an integrated response back to various target cells within the GI tract. This system is optimized to assure homeostasis of the GI tract during physiological perturbations and to adapt GI function to the overall state of the organism. In health, the great majority of interoceptive information reaching the brain is not consciously perceived but serves primarily as input to autonomic reflex pathways. In patients with functional abdominal pain syndromes, conscious perception of interoceptive information from the GI tract, or recall of interoceptive memories of such input, can occur in the form of constant or recurrent discomfort or pain. This is often associated with alterations in autonomic nervous system output and with emotional changes. A model is proposed that incorporates reported peripheral and central abnormalities in patients with IBS, extrapolates similar alterations in brain-gut interactions to patients with other chronic abdominal pain syndromes, and provides novel treatment targets.

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