The role of myogenic electrical activity in the coordination of circumferential contraction of the human colon circular muscle was investigated. Five suction electrodes were placed (5-7 mm apart) on isolated rings of human colon and simultaneously electrical and motor activities were measured. In normal Krebs solution, the slow waves were not synchronised in most preparations studied. The electrical activities at the different recording sites were different with respect to slow wave frequency and amplitude, and amount of spiking activity. This resulted in irregular contractile activity. Cholinergic stimulation resulted in the development of a specific pattern of electrical activity: periodic slow wave activity with superimposed spiking activity which was synchronised over the length of the segment studied. This synchronised electrical activity resulted in regular phasic contractions at the frequency of the bursts of electrical activity (approximately 1/min). The response to carbachol was mediated by muscarinic receptors since it was blocked by atropine. The periodic activity in the continuous presence of carbachol was not the result of periodic input of neural activity as it occurred in the presence of TTX. Intrinsic properties of the muscle cells were responsible for the carbachol induced pattern of activity. The present study presents evidence that the electrical correlate of circumferential contractions is different in man compared with the most commonly studied animal models. It is a specific, stimulus induced pattern of myogenic activity. Its characteristics closely resemble those of a particular pattern of in vivo recorded activity referred to as the 'long spike bursts'.
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