Gastrointestinal motility: Some basic concepts

Sushil K. Sarna, Mary F. Otterson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


The spatial and temporal patterns of phasic contractions in the gastrointestinal tract are regulated by a complex interplay between the myogenic, neural and chemical control mechanisms. These contractions are largely responsible for the mixing and propulsive movements of the gut after a meal. In the fasted state, organized groups of contractions called cyclic motor activity and migrating motor complex keep the upper digestive tract clean of residual food and debris. In addition, the small intestine and the colon generate giant migrating contractions which are several-fold stronger than the postprandial phasic contractions and migrate uninterrupted over long distances. The giant migrating contractions are effective in rapid propulsion. The upper small intestine and the antrum generate retrograde giant contractions that generally precede vomiting.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7-14
Number of pages8
StatePublished - 1988
Externally publishedYes


  • Electrical control activity
  • Electrical response activity
  • Giant migrating contraction
  • Migrating motor complex
  • Retrograde giant contraction
  • Slow waves
  • Spikes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology


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