University of Hertfordshire

Ageing and Gastrointestinal Sensory Function: The Enteric Nervous System

Research output: Contribution to journalLiterature review

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)71- 74
JournalAdvances in Experimental Medicine and Biology
Journal publication date6 Jul 2016
Publication statusPublished - 6 Jul 2016


Over the past few decades a combination of electrophysiological, morphological and molecular approaches has enabled the different populations of vagal and spinal afferents that innervate the bowel to be characterized. The sensitivity of these afferents is determined by their location in the gut wall, their relationship with other cells and structures and the receptors and ion channels that they express on their nerve terminals. An important feature of this innervation is that it is upregulated during injury, inflammation and ischaemia through changes in receptors and ion channels that determine excitability and sensitivity. In recent studies we have sought to identify how sensory mechanisms are influenced as part of the normal ageing process. Attenuated signaling was evident in different gastrointestinal afferent subpopulations conveying low and high threshold mechanosensory information and there was impairment in the ability of sensory neurons to sensitize in response to chemical mediators such as 5-HT. These sensory deficits may contribute to altered bowel habits with age and the prevalence of incontinence in the elderly.


Paper submitted to the ‘The Enteric Nervous System II 2014’ conference, which was held on February 1st - 2nd 2014 at the National Wine Centre of Australia, Adelaide. Available on line at

ID: 10341908