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Brain Res. 2018 Aug 15;1693(Pt B):207-213. doi: 10.1016/j.brainres.2018.01.011. Epub 2018 Jan 31.

Enteric nervous system manifestations of neurodegenerative disease.

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Department of Pathology and Cell Biology, Columbia University, 630 West 168th Street, P&S 11-511, New York, NY, USA. Electronic address:
Department of Pediatrics, Columbia University, 622 West 168th Street, PH 17, New York, NY, USA. Electronic address:


Neurological disorders cause gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms that are debilitating and markedly diminish quality of life in patients. The enteric nervous system (ENS), the intrinsic nervous system of the GI tract that is often referred to as "the second brain", shares many features with the central nervous system. The ENS plays an essential role in regulating many GI functions including motility and fluid secretion. Enteric neuronal degeneration could therefore be responsible for the GI symptoms commonly observed in neurological conditions. Here we describe the organization and functions of the ENS and then review the evidence for ENS involvement in two common neurodegenerative disorders, Parkinson's disease (PD) and Alzheimer's disease (AD). Data from patients as well as animal models suggest that PD affects distinct subsets of neurons and glia in the ENS, and that the ENS may participate in the pathogenesis of this disorder. While there has been great enthusiasm for the possibility of sampling the ENS for diagnosis or therapeutic monitoring of PD, further work is needed to determine which enteric neurons are most affected and how ENS function could be modulated to ameliorate GI symptoms in patients. Although AD is far more common than PD and AD patients also experience GI symptoms, understanding of ENS dysfunction in AD is in its infancy. Much work remains to be done in both of these fields to determine how the ENS contributes to and/or is altered by these disorders, and how to target the ENS for more effective treatment of GI comorbidities.


Alzheimer’s disease; Enteric nervous system; Neurodegeneration; Parkinson’s disease

[Available on 2019-08-15]
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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