The human enteric nervous system


Professor Michael Schemann, Department of Human Biology, Technische Universität München, Hochfeldweg 2, 85350 Freising, Germany.


Decades of work in animal models have demonstrated that the enteric nervous system (ENS) plays a key role in controlling gut functions. Recent advances made it possible to extend such studies to the ENS of man in health and even in disease. Such studies have already provided new insights into the pathophysiology of inflammatory and possibly functional bowel diseases. Studies on human ENS revealed both important similarities and differences between the ENS of man and of experimental animals. Here we summarize the current state of knowledge of the electrophysiology and neurochemistry of the human ENS, including relevant reflex mediated functions in the human gut. Additionally, we review disease associated changes in human ENS properties. Finally, we highlight some research areas that hold special promise in advancing our understanding of the human ENS.