The brain and the gut are engaged in continual crosstalk along a number of pathways collective termed the 'brain-gut axis'. Over recent years it has become increasingly clear that dysregulation of the axis at a number of levels can result in disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome (Kennedy, Clarke, Quigley, Groeger, Dinan & Cryan, 2011). In a recent review, researchers from the University College Cork, Ireland, examined the cognitive-behavioural model of irritable bowel syndrome (Kennedy, Clarke, Quigley, Groeger, Dinan & Cryan, 2011). The cognitive-behavioural model of irritable bowel proposes that gastrointestinal symptoms are affected and maintained by interactions between psychological (e.g. emotions, cognition, bahviour), social (modelling, support) and physiological factors (cramping and bloating). In this review, it was found that early life stress, trauma and abuse, are considered key risk factors in the development of irritable bowel syndrome in adulthood. In addition to the putative effects on gastrointestinal function, stressful or traumatic early life environments and experiences can profoundly impact on the structural and functional development of the central nervous system, leading to maladaptive behavioural, autonomic and neuroendocrine responses to stress, and cognitive deficits in later life.
Kennedy, P.J., Clarke, G., Quigley, E.M.M., Groeger, J.A., Dinan, T.G. & Cryan, J.F. 2011. Gut memories: towards a cognitive neurobiology of irritable bowel syndrome. Neuroscience and Behavioural Reviews, 1-31. In Press.