The migrating myoelectric complex of the small intestine

Gordon L. Telford, Sushil K. Sarna

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Gastric and small intestinal myoelectric and motor activity is divided into two main patterns, fed and fasted. During fasting, the predominant pattern of activity is the migrating myoelectric complex (MMC), a cyclically occurring pattern of electric and mechanical activity that is initiated in the stomach and duodenum almost simultaneously and, from there, propagates the length of the small intestine. Cyclic motor activity also occurs in the lower esophageal sphincter, the gallbladder, and the sphincter of Oddi with a duration that is related to the MMC in the small intestine. Of the possible mechanisms for initiation of the MMC in the small intestine (extrinsic neural control, intrinsic neural control, and hormonal control), intrinsic neural control via a series of coupled relaxation oscillators is the most likely. The hormone motilin also plays a role in the initiation of MMCs. After a meal, in man the MMC is disrupted and replaced by irregular contractions. The physiologic role of the MMC is to clear the stomach and small intestine of residual food, secretions, and desquamated cells and propel them to the colon. Disruption of the MMC cycle is associated with bacterial overgrowth in some patients, an observation that supports the proposed cleansing function of the MMC cycle.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)299-302
Number of pages4
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1991

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Statistical and Nonlinear Physics
  • Mathematical Physics
  • General Physics and Astronomy
  • Applied Mathematics


Dive into the research topics of 'The migrating myoelectric complex of the small intestine'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this