Pathogenesis, experimental models and contemporary pharmacotherapy of irritable bowel syndrome: Story about the brain-gut axis

Siu Wai Tsang, Kathy K W Au Yeung, Zhaoxiang Bian, Joshua Ko*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Although the precise pathophysiology of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) remains unknown, it is generally considered to be a disorder of the brain-gut axis, representing the disruption of communication between the brain and the digestive system. The present review describes advances in understanding the pathophysiology and experimental approaches in studying IBS, as well as providing an update of the therapies targeting brain-gut axis in the treatment of the disease. Methods: Causal factors of IBS are reviewed. Following this, the preclinical experimental models of IBS will be introduced. Besides, both current and future therapeutic approaches of IBS will be discussed. Results: When signal of the brain-gut axis becomes misinterpreted, it may lead to dysregulation of both central and enteric nervous systems, altered intestinal motility, increased visceral sensitivity and consequently contributing to the development of IBS. Interference of the brain-gut axis can be modulated by various psychological and environmental factors. Although there is no existing animal experiment that can represent this complex multifactorial disease, these in vivo models are clinically relevant readouts of gastrointestinal functions being essential to the identification of effective treatments of IBS symptoms as well as their molecular targets. Understanding the brain-gut axis is essential in developing the effective therapy for IBS. Therapies include improvement of GI motor functions, relief of visceral hypersensitivity and pain, attenuation of autonomic dysfunctions and suppression of mucosal immune activation. Conclusion: Target-oriented therapies that provide symptomatic, psychological and physiological benefits could surely help to improve the quality of life of IBS patients.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)842-856
Number of pages15
JournalCurrent Neuropharmacology
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2016

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pharmacology (medical)

User-Defined Keywords

  • Animal models
  • Brain-gut axis
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Pathophysiology
  • Pharmacotherapy


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