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Dev Disabil Res Rev. 2008;14(2):87-95. doi: 10.1002/ddrr.15.

The nervous system and gastrointestinal function.

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Division of Pediatric Gastroenterology, The Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, WI 53226, USA.


The enteric nervous system is an integrative brain with collection of neurons in the gastrointestinal tract which is capable of functioning independently of the central nervous system (CNS). The enteric nervous system modulates motility, secretions, microcirculation, immune and inflammatory responses of the gastrointestinal tract. Dysphagia, feeding intolerance, gastroesophageal reflux, abdominal pain, and constipation are few of the medical problems frequently encountered in children with developmental disabilities. Alteration in bowel motility have been described in most of these disorders and can results from a primary defect in the enteric neurons or central modulation. The development and physiology of the enteric nervous system is discussed along with the basic mechanisms involved in controlling various functions of the gastrointestinal tract. The intestinal motility, neurogastric reflexes, and brain perception of visceral hyperalgesia are also discussed. This will help better understand the pathophysiology of these disorders in children with developmental disabilities.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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