Visceral Hypersensitivity

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Visceral hypersensitivity is considered one of the causes of functional gastrointestinal disorders. The objectives of this review are to provide a practical description of neuroanatomy and physiology of gut sensation, to describe the diverse tests of visceral sensation and the potential role of brain imaging to further our understanding of visceral sensitivity in health and disease. Changes in motor function in the gut may influence sensory levels, eg, during contractions or as a result of changes in viscus compliance. New insights on sensory end organs, such as intraganglionic laminar endings, and basic neurophysiologic studies showing afferent firing during changes in stretch rather than tension illustrate the importance of different types of stimuli, not just tension, to stimulate afferent sensation. These insights provide the basis for understanding visceral sensation in health and disease, which will be extensively discussed in subsequent articles.

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