Electrical and mechanical activities were recorded from the rectosigmoid of normal subjects using an intraluminal recording tube with two sets of bipolar electrodes and strain gauges. Four distinct types of electrical activities were recorded. (1) Electrical control activity (ECA). This activity varied in amplitude and frequency over time and the control waves were not phase-locked. The means of dominant frequency components in the lower and higher frequency ranges were 3.86 +/- 0.18 SD and 10.41 +/- 0.46 SD c/min, respectively. The overall dominant frequency component was mostly in the lower frequency range of 2.0-9.0 c/min. (2) Discrete electrical response activity (DERA). This activity appeared as short duration bursts (less than 10 s) of response potentials whose repetition rate was in the total colonic electrical control activity frequency range of 2.0-13.0 c/min. The mean duration of this activity was 2.24 +/- 1.30 SD s. (3) Continuous electrical response activity (CERA). This activity appeared as long duration bursts (greater than 10 s) of response potentials which were not related to electrical control activity. Its mean duration was 14.78 +/- 3.68 SD s. This activity generally did not propagate. (4) Contractile electrical complex (CEC). This activity appeared as oscillations in the frequency range of 25-40 c/min and was also not related to electrical control activity. This activity propagated, sometimes proximally and sometimes distally. Its mean duration was 18.87 +/- 9.22 SD s. The latter three types of electrical activities were all associated with different types of contractions. These contractions, however, did not always occlude the lumen. Colonic electrical control activity controls the appearance of discrete electrical response activity in time and space. The mechanism of generation of continuous electrical response activity and contractile electrical complex is not yet known.
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