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The ‘rectosigmoid brake’: review of an emerging neuromodulation target for colorectal functional disorders

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Clinical and Experimental Pharmacology and Physiology

Published online on


The regulation of gastrointestinal motility encompasses several overlapping mechanisms including highly regulated and coordinated neurohormonal circuits. Various feedback mechanisms or ‘brakes’ have been proposed. While duodenal, jejunal, and ileal brakes are well described, a putative distal colonic brake is less well defined. Despite the high prevalence of colonic motility disorders, there is little knowledge of colonic motility owing to difficulties with organ access and technical difficulties in recording detailed motor patterns along its entire length. The motility of the colon is not under voluntary control. A wide range of motor patterns is seen, with long intervals of intestinal quiescence between them. In addition, the use of traditional manometric catheters to record contractile activity of the colon has been limited by low number of widely spaced sensors, which has resulted in the misinterpretation of colonic motor patterns. The recent advent of high‐resolution (HR) manometry is revolutionising the understanding of gastrointestinal motor patterns. It has now been observed that the most common motor patterns in the colon are repetitive 2‐6 cycles per minute (cpm) propagating events in the distal colon. These motor patterns are prominent soon after a meal, originate most frequently in the rectosigmoid region, and travel in the retrograde direction. The distal prominence and the origin of these motor patterns raise the possibility of them serving as a braking mechanism, or the ‘rectosigmoid brake,’ to limit rectal filling. This review aims to describe what is known about the ‘rectosigmoid brake,’ including its physiological and clinical significance and potential therapeutic applications. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.