Scientists discover how 'second brain,' which helps you poop, works

Scientists discover how 'second brain,' which helps you poop, works
Posted at 10:16 PM, May 31, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-31 18:33:42-04

(RNN) – You might be able to get your mind out of the gutter, but you’re stuck with the one in your gut.

Believe it or not, the human body effectively has a “second brain” in its gut. And its function, more or less, is to enable you to poop.

Thanks to new research by Australian scientists, we now know how it works.

It goes a bit like this: Millions of neurons in your gastrointestinal tract effectively form this second brain called the enteric nervous system, independent of the central nervous system run by the brain and spinal cord.

These neurons work together “to generate the muscle contractions that propel waste through the last leg of the digestive system” according to a release announcing the research.

That’s a highly scientific way of saying the second brain of neural networks, in your gut, controls your butt.

The scientists, at Flinders University in Adelaide, conducted their study on mouse colons, and published their findings in the journal JNeurosci.

Scientists had long known about the existence of the enteric nervous system but, researchers wrote, “How the enteric nervous system generates neurogenic contractions of smooth muscle in the gastrointestinal tract has been a long-standing mystery in vertebrates.”

They used neuronal imaging to see, basically, how the neurons make intestinal muscles move as they do.

What they found was “a rhythmic pattern of activity underlying so-called colonic migrating motor complexes.”

“They demonstrate how this activity transports fecal pellets through the mouse colon,” a release said.

In plain English: They discovered what the neurons do to make intestinal muscles move waste to, and then out of, the butt.

"These findings identify a previously unknown pattern of neuronal activity in the peripheral nervous system," said Nick Spencer, a Flinders University professor who led the study.

So, the next time you feel a rumbling in your stomach, just chalk it up to neuronal activity.

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