The second brain that controls our gut

Original broadcast date: May 10, 2009

When we talk of the human nervous system, we tend to think about the brain, spinal cord and the nerves that emanate from it to spread throughout the body. What is becoming clearer is that there is what some call a “second brain” that controls the functions of the digestive tract. This enteric nervous system may hold clues about the pathophysiology of diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease and irritable bowel syndrome.

Researchers from the Hotchkiss Brain Institute (HBI) in the Faculty of Medicine have uncovered the first evidence that neurons talk to ‘glial’ cells in the digestive tract: a discovery that could help find a way to regulate and restore balance in the gut in a study published in the April edition of the journal Gastroenterology.

  • Dr. Keith Sharkey, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Physiology & Pharmacology, University of Calgary and Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of Canada Chair in IBD Research

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