Most of the gastrointestinal tract and the biliary tract have a cyclic motor activity. The electric counterpart of this motor activity is called cyclic myoelectric activity. A typical motor cycle in the LES, stomach, and small intestine is composed of a quiescent state, followed by progressively increasing amplitude and frequency of contractions culminating in a state of maximal contractile activity. The colonic motor cycle has only the quiescent and the contractile states. In the small intestine, these motor complexes migrate in an aborad direction, and in the colon in both orad and aborad directions. The mechanisms of initiation and migration of these complexes are best understood in the small intestine. Both the initiation and migration of these complexes seem to be controlled by enteric neural mechanisms. The functions of the enteric mechanisms may be modulated by the central nervous system and by circulating endogenous substances. The mechanisms of initiation of these complexes are not completely understood in the rest of the gastrointestinal tract and in the biliary tract. The physiologic function of these motor complexes that occur only after several hours of fast in the upper gastrointestinal tract of nonruminants may be to clean the digestive tract of residual food, secretions, and cellular debris. This function is aided by a coordinated secretion of enzymes, acid, and bicarbonate. In ruminants, phase III activity is associated with the distal propulsion of ingested food. The function of colonic motor complexes that are not coordinated with the cyclic motor activities of the rest of the gastrointestinal tract may be only to move contents back and forth for optimal absorption.
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