Abstract Available evidence implicates abnormal colonic contractility in patients suffering from constipation. Traditional analysis of colonic manometry focuses on the frequency, extent and amplitude of propagating sequences (PS). We tested the hypotheses that the spatio-temporal linkage among sequential PSs exists throughout the healthy human colon and is disrupted during constipation. In eight patients with severe constipation and eight healthy volunteers, we recorded colonic pressures from 16 regions (caecum–rectum) for 24 h. Sequential PSs were regionally linked if the two PSs originated from different colonic regions but the segments of colon traversed by each PS overlapped. In order to determine whether this linkage occurred by chance, a computer program was used to randomly rearrange all PSs in time. Data were re-analysed to compare regional linkage between randomly re-ordered PSs (expected) and the natural distribution of PSs (observed). In controls the observed regional linkage (82.5 ± 9.0%) was significantly greater than the expected value (60.5 ± 4.3%; P = 0.0001). In patients the observed and expected regional linkage did not differ. The (observed − expected) delta value of regional linkage in controls was significantly greater than in patients (21.7 ± 8.5%vs−2.3 ± 7.0%; P = 0.01). Regional linkage among sequential PSs in the healthy colon appears to be a real phenomenon and this linkage is lost in patients with constipation. Regional linkage may be important for normal colonic transit and loss of linkage might have pathophysiological relevance to and provide a useful biomarker of severe constipation.