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Gut brain

Posted by R. on April 27, 2002 at 18:15:14:

Here's an article that summarizes some of what's known about the gut brain and its functions.

-------------------------------------------
(from BioMedNet)


Gut Thoughts

by Maia Szalavitz


Though few know about it, humans have a second brain that handles most of the body's digestive functions. Study of the enteric nervous system is a rapidly growing specialty, offering insight into malfunctions of the "gut brain" as well as the more complex cranial brain.

Digestion is such a prosaic function that most people prefer not to think about it. Fortunately, they don't have to - at least not with the brain in their heads. Though few know about it, humans (and other animals) have a second brain that handles most digestive functions.

Deep in your gut lies a complex self-contained nervous system containing more nerve cells than the spinal cord, and indeed more neurons than all the rest of the peripheral nervous system. There are over 100 million nerve cells in the human small intestine alone.

Malfunctions of this "gut brain" may be involved in irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a condition that affects an estimated 20 percent of the U.S. population and is believed to be responsible for $8 billion in health care costs alone in the United States each year, according to the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders. Patients with IBS suffer bouts of chronic diarrhea, constipation, or sometimes both alternately. IBS is the most common diagnosis made by gastroenterologists. The study of the enteric nervous system is a rapidly growing specialty known as neurogastroenterology.

"What the gut has to do is extremely complicated," says Michael Gershon, chair of the department of anatomy and cell biology at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and author of The Second Brain (Harper Perennial, 1999). "If the brain had to control that, it would have to run huge cables and have a huge number of cells devoted solely to that purpose. It makes great evolutionary sense to [separate these functions] and essentially use a microcomputer that is independent rather than a central processing unit."

In fact, researchers believe that the gut brain evolved first - because digestion came before locomotion in multicellular creatures. In mammals, the two systems originate near each other in the outer layer of the early embryo.

Like many poorly understood organs, the gut brain was discovered by classical anatomists in the 19th century and then ignored. "No one knew what it did," says David Wingate, emeritus professor of gastrointestinal science at Queen Mary, University of London. "When you'd ask what it was for in medical school, they'd say, 'Let's move on.'" In 1899, physiologists studying dogs found that unlike any other reflex, the continuous push of material through the digestive system (now called the peristaltic reflex) continued when nerves linking the brain to the intestines were cut.

By the 1970s, a society for the study of gastrointestinal motility had been set up - but how this motility was controlled remained unclear. The vagus nerve, for example, sends some fibers from the brain to the gut; however, it connects directly with only a tiny minority of cells there.

In 1965, Gershon published a paper in Science suggesting that serotonin might act as a neurotransmitter in the gut. At the time, acetylcholine and norepinephrine were accepted as transmitters in the peripheral nervous system, but serotonin was seen as a centrally acting transmitter used by some nerves to modulate the action of others. The peripheral nervous system wasn't supposed to use such controls - only the brain and spinal cord were believed to process information through "interneurons" such as those containing serotonin.

At a meeting of the Society for Neuroscience in 1981, however, Gershon and others marshaled enough data to finally convince skeptics that serotonin was indeed a key transmitter in the gut.

In fact, it is now known that 95% of the body's serotonin is used by the gut - and the enteric nervous system contains every neurotransmitter and neuromodulator found so far in the brain.

"We now know quite a lot about the library of programs run by the [gut brain]," says Jackie Wood, professor of physiology and cell biology and of internal medicine at Ohio State University. "For example, when the bowel is empty, one particular program runs." Called the migrating motor complex (MMC), this involves a series of movements running from the stomach to the end of the small intestine, which is believed to function in keeping the potentially dangerous bacteria stored in the colon from moving upwards rather than out.

At least 500 different species of deadly bacteria have been found to inhabit a person's colon at any given time; "traveler's diarrhea" often results when this mix is changed through exposure to new pathogens. If this happens, the gut runs a program designed to expel as much of its contents as quickly as possible - unpleasant for the vacationer, but much better than a fatal infection.

"Another program involves a flood of serotonin throughout the entire circuit, which produces the digestive pattern that mixes and stirs the contents," says Wood. Because the gut brain is smaller and more accessible than the brain itself, understanding it could offer insights about how to parse the more complex organ. "[That idea] was what lead me to begin my research when I was a fledgling neuroscientist," says Gershon. "I looked at the brain and found it daunting, and I still do, so I looked for a simpler nervous system to study." He adds, "'Simple nervous system,' of course, turned out to be an oxymoron."

Unlike the cranial brain, however, the gut brain doesn't seem to be conscious - or at least, in health, it doesn't impinge much on consciousness. "The gut is not an organ from which you like to receive frequent progress reports," says Gershon. For most digestive processes, no news is good news.

The problem in IBS, in fact, may be that the enteric nervous system becomes overly sensitive to normal functioning and reports to the brain when it shouldn't. Or, the brain may overreact to normal bowel signals.

Normally, the brain may avoid conscious awareness of most gut activity. But in IBS, says Wingate, one theory is that "the barrier to information being projected into consciousness is lowered."

As in many heterogeneous conditions defined by symptoms rather than specific pathology, different subgroups of patients may have different causes or varying levels of contributions by different factors.

In some cases, IBS may be an autoimmune problem - something like multiple sclerosis of the gut, where immune cells attack nervous tissue. "If you catch it early enough," says Wood, "You can use steroids to treat it [in such cases]." High doses of steroids shut down immune activity and prevent immune cells from causing harm, but they don't help once damage has been done.

The gut is, in fact, a major immune organ, containing more immune cells than the rest of the body combined. The enteric nervous system interacts intimately with the immune system, and can affect mood and behavior by signaling the central nervous system. Further, the gut brain may in fact be the only system that can refuse central signals. Says Gershon, "The gut brain can say no to the big brain, absolutely. In fact, there are nerve fibers that project towards the CNS, and if the [bowel] doesn't like the message, it can turn it off or cancel it."

Indeed, the vagus nerve mostly carries information from the enteric nervous system to the brain - for every one message sent by the brain to the gut, about nine are sent in the other direction. And recent research has found that stimulating this nerve can have antidepressant and even learning-enhancing effects - so "gut feelings" could genuinely be more than just a metaphor.

The similarities between the two nervous systems may also mean that they are vulnerable to similar toxins and disease processes. For example, in both Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's, the degenerative processes seen in brain nerve cells are also seen in the neurons of the enteric system.

This link could also help explain the connection between psychological problems and gut problems - and could put to rest the myth that problems such as IBS are simply "neuroses" because they so often occur in people with other psychological disorders. It may be that the real reason that bowel disorders often accompany psychological problems is that both brain and gut neurons are suffering simultaneously - in addition to the fact that having to spend a significant portion of one's life attending to bathroom functions is in itself depressing.

Simultaneous effects of drugs on both systems also account for the gastrointestinal "side effects" of Prozac and other drugs that act on serotonin metabolism - which actually may have more effect on the bowel than on the brain, because serotonin predominates in the bowel and the drug moves through the digestive system before reaching the brain.

Fortunately, in most people, the bowel quickly develops tolerance to these drugs, and gastrointestinal side effects usually subside within a few days or weeks of the start of treatment. In fact, low doses of SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) drugs may actually help patients with IBS. And since different serotonin receptors predominate in the brain and in the gut, new drugs may be developed to affect certain subtypes but not others.

"What's exciting," says Wingate, "is getting away from essentially anecdotal ways of categorizing patients by symptoms and being able to study [their problems] in a very systematic biological way."

Maia Szalavitz is a health/science journalist who has written for the New York Times, the Washington Post, Newsday, New York Magazine, Salon, and other major publications.



Re: Gut brain

Posted by Naya on April 27, 2002 at 23:59:31:

In Reply to: Gut brain posted by R. on April 27, 2002 at 18:15:14:

Great article! Thanks for sharing it. If only science were further on its way in solving the problems of the gut brain. More proof that SR helps.

Follow Ups:


Re: Gut brain (Archive in LGS.)

Posted by Walt Stoll on April 28, 2002 at 09:01:13:

In Reply to: Gut brain posted by R. on April 27, 2002 at 18:15:14:

Thanks, R.

Do not forget Michael Gershon, MD's book "The Second Brain".

NMI.

Walt



Re: Gut & other brains

Posted by
Gregory on April 28, 2002 at 19:51:35:

In Reply to: Re: Gut brain (Archive in LGS.) posted by Walt Stoll on April 28, 2002 at 09:01:13:


R.! This stuff is extremely facinating. I remember reading about this somewhere else.
all about the different brains carry around. This particular article was about the
"hindbrain" and how it "offloads" some of the processing tasks of the crainial brain.
Gotta find that article but my personal database is getting close to 800 Megs of info.
Maybe I need an indexing system...

Lightwalking,
Gregory



Re: Gut brain (Archive in LGS.)

Posted by jes' helpin out on April 28, 2002 at 20:10:16:

In Reply to: Re: Gut brain (Archive in LGS.) posted by Walt Stoll on April 28, 2002 at 09:01:13:

prior references here

Follow Ups:


Re: thanks - R. & Walt & Jan

Posted by Sonja on April 29, 2002 at 08:15:29:

In Reply to: Re: Gut brain (Archive in LGS.) posted by Walt Stoll on April 28, 2002 at 09:01:13:

Another book to add to my list!

Getting this kind of information is exactly what has kept me here for so long. I should become better at sharing, though...

Sonja

Follow Ups:


Use MS Indexing Service. nmi

Posted by R. on April 29, 2002 at 13:12:44:

In Reply to: Re: Gut & other brains posted by Gregory on April 28, 2002 at 19:51:35:




Please tell me you are NOT referring to that horrid piece of software...

Posted by
Gregory on April 29, 2002 at 14:30:27:

In Reply to: Use MS Indexing Service. nmi posted by R. on April 29, 2002 at 13:12:44:


R.,
Please tell me you are NOT referring to that horrid piece of software that runs in
the back background with office, uses up to 76% of cpu resources, constantly has
your hard drive spinning, and steals cpu cycles from other programs. I desire a REAL
program not a POS from microsoft. Thanks for the tip, however I can see you are
hellspawn from Redmond trying to subvert me in the ways of the dark side.

Lightwalking,
Gregory




You've been brainwashed and are reacting emotionally :)

Posted by R. on April 29, 2002 at 22:36:32:

In Reply to: Please tell me you are NOT referring to that horrid piece of software... posted by Gregory on April 29, 2002 at 14:30:27:

It runs when computer is in idle.



Re: You've been brainwashed and are reacting emotionally :)

Posted by Deep on April 29, 2002 at 23:43:58:

In Reply to: You've been brainwashed and are reacting emotionally :) posted by R. on April 29, 2002 at 22:36:32:

R.

There is nothing wrong with acting emotionally. Do you have a problem with emotions? Your posts come across as you being a very technical minded person,nothing wrong with that, although you also can sound kind of cold. Do you have an emotional side?



Your are mistaken R.

Posted by
Gregory on April 30, 2002 at 05:06:09:

In Reply to: You've been brainwashed and are reacting emotionally :) posted by R. on April 29, 2002 at 22:36:32:

That is an annoying habit you have there, R. MS indexing software like much of the crap
coming out of Redmond is flawed. My machine is for the most part, not "idle." If I'm sitting
in front of it, it's being used. The fact of the matter is the indexing software DOES steal
cpu cycles, and it does take over system resources at an alarming rate. I did a test once
with a full install of Office '97 and set it to indexing a large 500Mb knowledgebase in
"background" mode on a Win2000 machine. Periodically I would run the task manager to
see what it was going. The CPU was consistently near 90% and memory resources kept
notching up to the limit of available memory. I remember the tech support team used
to get calls all the time from people's machines that had hung from running the indexer
and some other piece of software. My response may be emotional, but it does not
invalidate my observations of this piece of software.

Lightwalking,
Gregory



Re: You've been brainwashed and are reacting emotionally :)

Posted by R. on April 30, 2002 at 13:24:50:

In Reply to: Re: You've been brainwashed and are reacting emotionally :) posted by Deep on April 29, 2002 at 23:43:58:

Yes, I certainly do an emotional side. Don't judge me (or anyone else, I'd think) by my posts here as they present only one of my sides.

I try to make my posts not overly emotional because very emotional posts don't signal to me that are likely to be a good source of info. It's hard to make sound decisions under influence of emotions, and that's when emotions are "wrong" if you must use that word. Emotions are appropriate at other times but not when trying to lead a logical discussion.

Follow Ups:


Re: Your are mistaken R.

Posted by R. on April 30, 2002 at 13:28:34:

In Reply to: Your are mistaken R. posted by Gregory on April 30, 2002 at 05:06:09:

What habit of mine are talking about? Talking about being emotional? That's OK. Could even be beneficial... in Centerpointe sense.



No R., the other annoying habit.

Posted by
Gregory on April 30, 2002 at 19:05:52:

In Reply to: Re: Your are mistaken R. posted by R. on April 30, 2002 at 13:28:34:

The one where you automatically invalidate what someone is saying if it sounds "too"
emotional to you. Kind of quick to assume that I have been "brainwashed" if I
don't like Microsoft software. You never even considered that I might have a great
deal of experience with computer hardware and software, and especially MS software.

Nope, automatically I have been "brainwashed" for not agreeing with you. Luckily,
you are not the standard by which I judge software or even for that matter, "objectivity."

And as long as observations are going to be made, this is not the first time you have
come down on posters for emotional responses. In fact I would venture to say that
while your own responses are rigorously factual, they are also dry and lacking in
warmth -the "human touch" if you will as if the post had been made by a cold INTJ
personality. Unless you are an AI or a machine intelligence there is nothing wrong
with emotional display.

Lightwalking,
gregory





Re: No R., the other annoying habit.

Posted by R. on April 30, 2002 at 20:55:36:

In Reply to: No R., the other annoying habit. posted by Gregory on April 30, 2002 at 19:05:52:


this is not the first time you have come down on posters for emotional responses.

I know that. But haven't you done the same as well?

your ... responses ... are ... dry and lacking in warmth -the "human touch"

Probably. I give what I'd expect to get if I needed help here. I wouldn't spend my time looking for "It's OK. Everything's going to be alright" type of help. Not that THAT is not helpful sometimes. It is. But there's enough people here who provide exactly that. So why would I do the same? I personally would seek useful, substantiated information that I could use. If I needed "warmth", I'd find it from someone I can interact in person. Another reason for me making my posts the way I have is that I have a very limited time. Actually, I spend time here I can't currently afford to spend here. So I try to pack as much [useful, in my opinion] information as I can in my posts. I don't have time to express "warmth" on the Internet. I have enough opportunities to do that in noncyber world.

Anyway, don't you think that there's room and need for different types of people, warm and cold?

As far as the software issue and calling you brainwashed about MS is concerned, that was partially a joke. I just didn't feel like typing smiley faces. It was a joke only partially, though, as I sensed an aversion to everything that comes from MS. That's why I called you that. Yes, their stuff takes resource, but it's still good. Some of it, anyway. It's just your statement caused me to remember all MS haters that I've come across in the past. People seem to like to critisize MS software for problems that frequently aren't worse than those in other companies' software.

Did that make sense?



Re: Sorry R, I have to agree with Gregory here, the other annoying habit.

Posted by All Seeing Eye on April 30, 2002 at 22:23:21:

In Reply to: No R., the other annoying habit. posted by Gregory on April 30, 2002 at 19:05:52:

R.

You dont seem to have a good balance between the intellectual side and the emotional side. Your posts shine through the type of personality you have. Intellectual, and I congratulate you for your smarts. But what about the human side? I am sure you possess some warmth there, or do you tend to neglect this side of yourself and see it as negative/weak.

You seem quick at pointing out others faults(see some of your previous posts for proof), and especially as Greg has pointed out when others post in an emotional way you come down on them. Remember, R. we are all humans with an emotional side (thats the beauty of the human race) and it should be revered not put down, unless of course you are a robot. That is the feeling I get with you, a very mechanical, nonchalant almost robotic quality about you. Always presenting just facts and nothing else, like you are a computer/machine and not a human.

Just something for YOU to ponder....



And then there's that 3rd annoying habit. oh wait make that 4.

Posted by
Gregory on April 30, 2002 at 23:36:52:

In Reply to: Re: No R., the other annoying habit. posted by R. on April 30, 2002 at 20:55:36:


I think R., I'm just going to take 3 & 4 as a chunk. They dovetail so nicely into each other...

"...As far as the software issue and calling you brainwashed about MS is concerned, that was partially a joke. I just didn't feel like typing smiley faces. It was a joke only partially, though, as I sensed an aversion to everything that comes from MS. That's why I called you that. Yes, their stuff takes resource, but it's still good. Some of it, anyway. It's just your statement caused me to remember all MS haters that I've come across in the past. People seem to like to critisize MS software for problems that frequently aren't worse than those in other companies' software.

I been involved in computers since the days when CP/M was teh new kid on the block.
I've seen lots of software so I can speak with some authority on the subject.
I've written a great deal of software, so I've some experience to back it up.

From my point of view, it is YOU who are brainwashed. Microsoft may have "market leadership"
but it is not from putting out good software. Microsoft buys other companies that put out
good software. If the software is good enough, then they leave the team producing it
intact, and put the MS label on it. If they really want it, they tear the product apart,
rebuild it and introduce bugs into it, and put the MS label on it. I would know this, as
I am among other things a Microsoft Developer. Many MS haters have reason, good reason
to be haters, but that isn't
what I'm here to talk about. You make assumptions. You make them without knowledge or fact.

Your opinion and fact are stated as one in the same.

You make them "as if."

As if they are the same,
As if your opinion IS a standard,
As if it's ok to hold others to your coldness standard,
as if it's ok to be cold,
as if it's one is defective to show warmth,
as if not being able to express one's thoughts as
eloquently and precisely as you is I crime.

Now I have been guilty of this myself, so I can actually
call you on this. What I can
do is call on the software issue. Don't go there.
On the interacting issue. You stepped in hip deep. You post and your thoughts are there
on display. You actually responded to what people write. I'm sorry, in
Communications 101 that is indeed "Interaction and all the "rules of interaction" apply.

Perhaps it would behoove you to keep that in mind.

You know for when you make statements like this: I don't have time to express "warmth" on the Internet. I have enough opportunities to do that in noncyber world.

Anyway, don't you think that there's room and need for different types of people, warm and cold?

Hmmm. I gave it some thought. There is a board member you can ask about being cold and
uncaring of feeling. Have a talk with MAI. MAI is factually correct, but short on bedside
manner. I'm was sure that your similar styles would endear you to each other, but alas I
can find no post from either of you to each other. Almost exclusively you post either to
the board-at-large, or to annoyingly "emotional" regular posters. Strange...

Well, must be going. It was delightful to not interact with you once more.


Lightwalking,
Gregory

asn most of all




Re: And then there's that 3rd annoying habit. oh wait make that 4.

Posted by R. on May 01, 2002 at 13:43:41:

In Reply to: And then there's that 3rd annoying habit. oh wait make that 4. posted by Gregory on April 30, 2002 at 23:36:52:

I think I'm going to drop this conversation as it doesn't serve goals. But before I do, I'll say that I have exchanged posts with MAI, and post a lot to individuals. So your "Almost exclusively you post either to
the board-at-large, or to annoyingly "emotional" regular posters" statement stems from faulty observation.

Also, I am an MS developer as well and have some background to support my opinions. And what you said in your little poem is bogus, and if it reflects reality, it's your internal one.

It was nice talking to you too. My heart goes out to you. Love and peace to your home. How's that for warmth? He-he-he.



Re: Sorry R, I have to agree with Gregory here, the other annoying habit.

Posted by R. on May 01, 2002 at 13:52:44:

In Reply to: Re: Sorry R, I have to agree with Gregory here, the other annoying habit. posted by All Seeing Eye on April 30, 2002 at 22:23:21:

You must have missed or misunderstood my replies on this issue. You shouldn't judge a whole person by his/her posts on a discussion board. Consider posts of others (Walt, HY, etc.) that have something substancial (again, in my opinion) to offer. They are brief and conscise, aren't they?

I have a concrete question for you. For example, when somebody is asking for help with diabetes or adrenal exhaustion, and I think I can point out in a potentially helpful direction, what do you suggest I should say? When answering that, consider that I have a very limited time for this and I type quite slowly. Also consider that there are many posts I want to check out.



To All seeing Eye & R - A little hard on R. here

Posted by Kim on May 01, 2002 at 16:18:38:

In Reply to: Re: Sorry R, I have to agree with Gregory here, the other annoying habit. posted by R. on May 01, 2002 at 13:52:44:

R. is correct, you shouldn't judge a person by his/or her
posts on the BB. I think you took this post well R. You have taken quite a few punches lately. Each time I have observed that you answer the post without personally attacking the other poster. I have to admit that sometimes I am a little intimidated by your challenging questions and answers but I don't take you personally. I realise your trying to get me to think and then post.



Why is R. being interrogated here? Its only a Board for Gosh Sakes.....

Posted by Kim on May 01, 2002 at 16:36:51:

In Reply to: And then there's that 3rd annoying habit. oh wait make that 4. posted by Gregory on April 30, 2002 at 23:36:52:

Many posters have said the same of Walt. Walt has been accused of being cold and uncaring because of his short
answers. Especially for sending posters to the archives.
If R. chooses his/her way of posting, what is wrong with that? HY chooses his way to be on the safe side too.
I realise that I am not a great writer, and because of that I hold back many times posting on the BB. I had to say something this time. Hope my point was clear.



Too vague. Not specific enough.

Posted by
Gregory on May 01, 2002 at 18:06:29:

In Reply to: Re: And then there's that 3rd annoying habit. oh wait make that 4. posted by R. on May 01, 2002 at 13:43:41:

I don't know what poem you are refering to.

It is your observations that are faulty.
A friend of mine once said "When you are losing the arguement, make a strategic withdrawl.
Good move R.

And in the spirit that your yourself display, May your health & happiness be 1000 times
what you offer to me. HAHAHAHAHA.

Lightwalking,
Gregory



Yes Kim. It was exceedingly clear. nmi

Posted by
Gregory on May 01, 2002 at 18:09:11:

In Reply to: Why is R. being interrogated here? Its only a Board for Gosh Sakes..... posted by Kim on May 01, 2002 at 16:36:51:





Re: To All seeing Eye & R - A little hard on R. here

Posted by R. on May 01, 2002 at 18:25:56:

In Reply to: To All seeing Eye & R - A little hard on R. here posted by Kim on May 01, 2002 at 16:18:38:

Thank you, Kim. Must be some kind of astrological/astronomical phase :)



That was very nice of you to say that. Thank you. nmi

Posted by R. on May 01, 2002 at 18:28:38:

In Reply to: Too vague. Not specific enough. posted by Gregory on May 01, 2002 at 18:06:29:


Follow Ups:


Re: To All seeing Eye & R - A little hard on R. here

Posted by Kim on May 01, 2002 at 19:08:45:

In Reply to: Re: To All seeing Eye & R - A little hard on R. here posted by R. on May 01, 2002 at 18:25:56:

I'm impressed, are you always that mellow about things?
Or just the BB? (LOL) But, your probably right. I don't see any ruffled feathers here.



Gregory - Yes Kim. It was exceedingly clear.

Posted by Kim on May 01, 2002 at 19:12:50:

In Reply to: Yes Kim. It was exceedingly clear. nmi posted by Gregory on May 01, 2002 at 18:09:11:

Ok Gregory, thats it? All your going to say? I'm shocked,
shocked I tell you! And what do you mean by exceedingly clear. Put honey with with that medicine please.




Re: To All seeing Eye & R - A little hard on R. here

Posted by R. on May 01, 2002 at 20:33:44:

In Reply to: Re: To All seeing Eye & R - A little hard on R. here posted by Kim on May 01, 2002 at 19:08:45:

Not always, but I try to be as I find being mellow much more pleasurable than being angry, anxious, etc. I am not talking about laughing, being sexually aroused, etc.

There were times when I wanted to tell them where to go and what to do (if you know what I mean :) ), but I had a choice at the same time, and I chose what you saw. I enjoy being aware of the choice I have over my reaction and actions and using it. It actually brings me pleasure. It's taken me time to realize that I have the choice, and I am not always able to use it.

Follow Ups:


I believe your "recent" posts on this topic speak for themselves - nmi

Posted by
Gregory on May 02, 2002 at 05:00:24:

In Reply to: Gregory - Yes Kim. It was exceedingly clear. posted by Kim on May 01, 2002 at 19:12:50:



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