• Project Title: Observing the Patterns of the Neurons of the Enteric Nervous System and its Relationship to Peristalsis

  • BASIS Advisor: Dr. Brown

  • Internship Location: Kaltschmidt Lab at Stanford University, Clark Center

  • Onsite Mentor: Dr. Julia Kaltschmidt

The enteric nervous system (ENS) controls a variety of functions related to digestion, such as gut motility and control of secretions of digestive enzymes. In addition, great interest in the organization of the connection of ENS neurons has also been demonstrated. For example, according to a study by Kriener, excitatory subpopulations tend to synchronize because of the highly recurrent local structure and positive feedback. This means that the patterns of the neurons play an important role in the properties of neurons, and that different patterns lead to different roles and functions of neurons. However, the relationship between the organization of the ENS and detailed functions of the ENS is not well known. One function that is not understood in particular is peristalsis, which is the systematic muscle contractions that allow food to move through the body. To address this gap in knowledge, a protocol commonly used by research labs was utilized to visualize synaptic structure in the mouse ENS with immunohistochemistry techniques. The visualization would allow one to see if there were any patterns in the organization of the ENS. I hypothesized that there is a pattern of ENS neurons in the intestine, and that galanin, which is a neuropeptide that has been shown to have a direct relationship with peristalsis, will be more present in parts of the ENS neurons that have pattern formations.