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“Brain in the Gut”: Concept Overview Essay (Critical Writing)

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Updated: Jul 12th, 2020


Overview of the concept ‘Brain in the Gut’

There is a false assumption that biological processes in the organism are subjected to the central nervous system, namely the brain and the spinal cord. Numerous researches have revealed that the digest track is also controlled by the so-called second brain that sends nervous impulses to the cerebral brain (Sorokie, 2004). This brain in the gut is another proof that the somatic peripheries of our organism are toughly connected to the neurological and psychological processes within the body.

Judging from the above, physiological dynamics within the organism interact reciprocally with other systems and build a defense mechanism against physical and mental dysfunctions. At the same time, any physical disorders are reported to the brain through nervous impulses to turn biological disorders with the mental ones. In order to explain the presented hypothesis in detail, Wilson’s (2004) article called Brain in the Gut should be analyzed to highlight the connection between the mind and the body and understand how psychological and neurological aspects are connected with normal functioning of a human organism.

Defining the Main Peculiarities of Enteric Nervous System (ENS)

Digest system reports to the brain about any shifts in functioning through enteric nervous system. This system innervates the gut and, as a result, the digest track and related organs can be supplied with neuron (Smith and Morton, 2001). It is often identified with the cerebral brain due to the independence of operation and control of the gut-brain (Wilson, 2004, p. 32).

Though the enteric nervous systems reports to the brain, the brain is not directly connected with the gut and, therefore, the enervated stomach can function as independent system. It implies that it can receive messages and monitor all digesting process on its own. Despite separate functioning, the brain and the gut can still cooperate successfully with each other.

Being one of the independent systems in the organism, the enteric nervous system takes control of the digestive process and does not have to report about the processes to the brain (Smith and Morton, 2001, p. 15). Despite automatic mechanism, the neurological aspects of functioning are also presented. According to Smith and Morton (2001), cell bodies “…are stimulated by distension or irritation of the gut all which activates mechanoreceptors and by substances in the food, which activate chemoreceptors” (p. 15). Judging from the description above, it is purposeful to define the connection between the central nervous system (cerebral brain) and enteric nervous system (the brain in the gut).

Understanding the Connection between Mind and the Body through the Gut and the Brain Relations

Freud’s experiment described by Wilson (2004) is explicit proof of the independence of innervated digested system. Influence on patient’s sub-consciousness failed to solve the problem of gastric pain because this digestive system is subjected to another nervous system acting separately. At the same time, the impulses imposed by the brain can still influence the digesting processes through the vagus nerve that sends afferent impulses only.

The apparent connection between the gut and the brain is revealed when certain functional gastrointestinal disorders come to the forth. Many patients seek medical intervention because of the pain this disorder causes. According to Spiller and Grundy (2004), “pain experience is a multifaceted process that involves a complex interaction between sensory-discriminative, affective and cognitive dimensions” (p. 34).

In this respect, afferent nerves are capable of transferring sensory events conveyed from the enteric nervous system to the cerebral brain. The input, in its turn, activates sensory-discriminative fields and provides information about the site of problem. The information transferred to the brain is processed with regard to physical and psychological contexts and recollections of the past experience (Spiller and Grundy, 2004). As a result, cognitive judgments are produced for coping with the problem.

In general, the above-presented research reveals that the relation between physiological processes and neurological functioning are direct because each physical dysfunction is immediately analyzed by systems to reveal inconsistency and form an emotional response.

Psychological Implications: Independent Spirit of the Gut and Psyche

On the one hand, enteric nervous system can be considered to be an independent mechanism processing and transmitting information. On the other hand, the autonomy of the system falls under the question due to numerous interactions with periphery and cerebral systems. Both sides still have the right to exist because these interactions embrace physical and psychological aspects of normal functioning of a human organism.

In this respect, it is irrational to consider that depression, anger, and anxiety are merely psychological disorders having no biological underpinnings. According to Wilson (2004), “there is something about the gut that makes particularly potent psychological organ …especially in relation to depression” (p. 43). To explain this issue, the researcher states that lasting effects of depression are closely related to physiological instability within the organism. In simple terms, disharmony within the body negatively influences the welfare of the mind.

It is a well-known fact that appetite worsens if a person is in the state of depression. However, few people can explain how psychological depression and mood breakdown cause a sequence of symptoms leading to dysfunction of the digest system. Actual mechanisms of digestion and ingestion are closely tied to the psychological function. Reluctance to eat during depression is a response the loss of other activities. Therefore, the gut becomes the central issue for studying the etiology and origins of depression.

The deduced explanation underscores the evident ties between psychology and digestions, mental problems and physical disorders, the mind and the body. In other words, the causes of depressions can be highlighted through neuro-enterological and psychodynamic mechanisms. What is more interesting is that the gut as an independent system is able to react to psychological deviation occurred to the organism. If a person suffers from loneliness and depression, he/she also feels discomfort in the gut.


Judging from the above-presented discussions, it should be highlighted that physical processes and psychological dynamics are closely intertwined. Their sophisticated interaction is carried out through innervated biological system. At this point, the brain in the gut is an independent organism, and intermediate between the cerebral brain and the sensory events occurred to the digest system. In general, the neuroscientific research is an essential contribution to understanding social and psychological dimensions of human behavior.

Numerous theories and approaches reveal a unanimous assumption that consideration of biological and biochemical processes should be consistent with psychodynamic and neurological studies. In this respect, Wilson (2004) argues that neurological studies are of particular concern because contribute greatly to the discussion of emotion, depression, and sexuality. Deviation from traditional explanations, therefore, is an effective technique that should be implemented to shed light on ambiguous and complicated issues related to the philosophy of the mind and the body.

Reference List

Smith M. E. & Morton, D. G. (2001) The Digestive System. US, Elsevier Health Sciences.

Sorokie, A. M. (2004) Gut Wisdom: Understanding and Improving Your Digestive Health. US, Career Press.

Spiller, R. C., and David Grundy. (2004). Pathophysiology of the enteric nervous system: a basis of understanding functional diseases. NJ, John Wiley and Sons.

Wilson, Elizabeth. (2004) Brain in the Gut. In: E. A. Wilson (author) Psychosomatic: Feminism and the Neurological Body. US, Duke University Press.

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