Effects of acute psychologic stress on small-intestinal motility in health and the irritable bowel syndrome

J. E. Kellow*, P. M. Langeluddecke, G. M. Eckersley, M. P. Jones, C. C. Tennant

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

79 Citations (Scopus)


Psychologic stress may be a provoking factor in the alterations in phase-2 motor activity of the migrating motor complex (MMC) which have been recorded in patients with the irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). to test this, changes in phase-2 duodenojejunal motor activity during 20 min of psychologic stress in 10 patients with IBS were compared with those shown by 10 healthy subjects. Autonomic arousal in response to the stressor was assessed by cardiovascular responses and self-reported levels of anxiety and tension. IBS and controls showed a significant cardiovascular and subjective response to stress which was comparable in the two groups. In general, duodenal phase-2 motor activity was suppressed during stress in both IBS and controls. Jejunal motor activity showed a similar inhibitory response in both groups, but the change in motility index was significant for controls only. Qualitatively, stress did not cause clustered contractions in either the IBS or the control group. However, in IBS patients with clustered contractions in the basal period there was inhibition of this pattern during stress. These findings suggest that acute psychologic stress profoundly suppresses, rather than enhances, duodenojejunal MMC phase-2 motility in healthy subjects. IBS patients, irrespective of their underlying phase-2 motor pattern show similar, although less marked, changes in motility.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)53-58
Number of pages6
JournalScandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1992
Externally publishedYes


  • Intestinal motility
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Mental stress


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