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The Enteric Nervous System

John Barton Furness

ISBN: 978-1-405-17344-5 April 2008 Wiley-Blackwell 288 Pages


Covers all aspects of the structure, function, neurochemistry, transmitter identification and development of the enteric nervous system

This book brings together extensive knowledge of the structure and cell physiology of the enteric nervous system and provides an up-to-date synthesis of the roles of the enteric nervous system in the control of motility, secretion and blood supply in the gastrointestinal tract.

It includes sections on the enteric nervous system in disease, genetic abnormalities that affect enteric nervous system function, and targets for therapy in the enteric nervous system. It also includes many newly created explanatory diagrams and illustrations of the organization of enteric nerve circuits.

This new book is ideal for gastroenterologists (including trainees/fellows), clinical physiologists and educators. It is invaluable for the many scientists in academia, research institutes and industry who have been drawn to work on the gastrointestinal innervation because of its intrinsic interest, its economic importance and its involvement in unsolved health problems. It also provides a valuable resource for undergraduate and graduate teaching.

Chapter 1: Structure of the enteric nervous system.

The enteric plexuses.

Interconnections between the plexuses.

Extent of the ganglionated plexuses.

Intramural extensions of extrinsic nerves.

Electron microscope studies.

Enteric glia.

The structural similarities and functional differences between regions may have an evolutionary basis.

Development of the enteric nervous system.

Maturation of enteric neurons and development of function.

Changes in enteric neurons with aging.

Summary and conclusions.

Chapter 2: Constituent neurons of the enteric nervous system.

Shapes of enteric neurons.

Cell physiological classifications of enteric neurons.

Functionally defined enteric neurons.

Neurons in human intestine with equivalence to those investigated in laboratory animals.

Summary and conclusions.

Chapter 3: Reflex circuitry of the enteric nervous system.

Evolution of ideas about enteric circuitry.

Motility controlling circuits of the small and large intestine.

Intrinsic secretomotor and vasomotor circuits.

Assemblies of neurons.

Circuits in the esophagus and stomach.

Co-ordination of motility, secretomotor and vasomotor reflexes.

Circuits connecting the intestine, biliary system and pancreas.

Sympathetic innervation of the gastrointestinal tract.

Summary and conclusions.

Chapter 4: Pharmacology of transmission and sites of drug action in the enteric nervous system.

Chemical coding and multiple transmitters.

Transmitters of motor neurons that innervate the smooth muscle of the gut.

Transmitters at neuro-neuronal synapses.

Sites within the reflex circuitry where specific pharmacologies of transmission can be deduced to occur.

Transmission from entero-endocrine cells to IPANs.

Roles of interstitial cells of Cajal in neuromuscular transmission.

Transmitters of secretomotor and vasodilator neurons.

Synapses in secretomotor and vasodilator pathways.

Transmitters of motor neurons innervating gastrin cells.

Summary and conclusions.

Chapter 5: Neural control of motility.

Rhythmic activity of gastrointestinal muscle.

Structure and properties of interstitial cells of Cajal.

Relationship between slow wave activity and neural control.

Gastric motility.

Patterns of small intestine motility and their intrinsic neural control.

Motility of the colon.

Neural control of the esophagus.

Gall-bladder motility.


Muscle of the mucosa.

Mechanism of sympathetic inhibition of motility in non-sphincter regions.

Sympathetic innervation of the sphincters.

Physiological effects of noradrenergic neurons on motility in undisturbed animals.

Reflex activities of sympathetic neurons that affect motility.

Summary and conclusions.

Chapter 6: Enteric neurons and the physiological control of fluid secretion and vasodilation.

Water and electrolyte secretion in the small and large intestines.

Reflex control of water and electrolyte secretion.

Secretion of gastric acid.

Pepsinogen secretion.

Gastric secretion of bicarbonate.

Secretion into the gall bladder.

Pancreatic exocrine secretion.

Summary and conclusions.

Chapter 7: Disorders of motility and secretion and therapeutic targets in the enteric nervous system.

Therapeutic endpoints for motility disorders.

Therapies for secretory diarrheas.

Enteric neuropathies involving neuronal loss or phenotypic changes.

Mitochondriopathies with intestinal manifestations.

Irritable bowel syndrome and plasticity of enteric neurons.

Summary and conclusions.

Epilogue: the future of enteric neurobiology.



"As someone who has contributed extensively to our current understanding, John Furness provides an insightful and personal account that integrates a vast array of literature into a nicely illustrated and very readable book that will be of interest to anyone working in the field."

Professor David Grundy, European Journal of Gastroenterology & Hepatology

"Each chapter is very well written, focused on the specific topic and easily understandable. Also, the text has been widely integrated by more than sixty high-quality schemes, illustrations and drawings... Furthermore, the entire book has been well supported by classic publications and updated literature making all together more than 12000 references in all."

Dr Roberto De Giorgio, Digestive and Liver Diseases

Covers all aspects of the structure, function, neurochemistry and development of the enteric nervous system

  • Brings together extensive knowledge of the structure and cell physiology of the enteric nervous system with an understanding of digestive physiology
  • Includes sections on: the enteric nervous system in disease; genetic abnormalities that affect enteric nervous system function; targets for therapy in the enteric nervous system
  • Contains newly created illustrations of the organisation of enteric nerve circuits