Skip to main content
Medicine LibreTexts

23.10B: Neural Responses to Food

  • Page ID
    8126
  • [ "article:topic" ]

    All three phases of digestive responses to food (the cephalic, gastric, and intestinal stages) are managed through enzymatic neural control.

     

    LEARNING OBJECTIVES

     

    Summarize the neural responses to food

     

    KEY TAKEAWAYS

    Key Points

     

    • The cephalic phase is controlled by sight, sense, and smell, which trigger neural responses, including salivation and hydrochloric acid production, before food has even reached the mouth.
    • Once food reaches the stomach, gastric acids and enzymes process the ingested materials in the gastric phase, which involves local, hormonal, and neural responses.
    • The intestinal phase controls the rate of gastric emptying and the release of hormones needed to digest chyme in the small intestine.

     

    Key Terms

     

    • neural: of, or relating to the nerves, neurons or the nervous system
    • salivary gland: any of several exocrine glands that produce saliva to break down carbohydrates in food enzymatically
    • peristaltic: of, or pertaining to the rhythmic, wave-like contraction of the digestive tract that forces food through it

    Neural Responses to Food

    In reaction to the smell, sight, or thought of food, the first hormonal response is that of salivation. The salivary glands secrete more saliva in response to the stimulus presented by food in preparation for digestion. Simultaneously, the stomach begins to produce hydrochloric acid to digest the food. Recall that the peristaltic movements of the esophagus and other organs of the digestive tract are under the control of the brain. The brain prepares these muscles for movement as well. When the stomach is full, the part of the brain that detects satiety signals fullness. There are three overlapping phases of gastric control: the cephalic phase, the gastric phase, and the intestinal phase. Each requires many enzymes and is under neural control as well.

    image

     

    Salivation: Seeing a plate of food triggers the secretion of saliva in the mouth and the production of hydrochloric acid in the stomach.

     

    Digestive Phases

    The response to food begins even before food enters the mouth. The first phase of ingestion, called the cephalic phase, is controlled by the neural response to the stimulus provided by food. All aspects, such as sight, sense, and smell, trigger the neural responses resulting in salivation and secretion of gastric juices. The gastric and salivary secretion in the cephalic phase can also take place at the thought of food. Right now, if you think about a piece of chocolate or a crispy potato chip, the increase in salivation is a cephalic phase response to the thought. The central nervous system prepares the stomach to receive food.

    The gastric phase begins once the food arrives in the stomach. It builds on the stimulation provided during the cephalic phase. Gastric acids and enzymes process the ingested materials. The gastric phase is stimulated by (1) distension of the stomach, (2) a decrease in the pH of the gastric contents, and (3) the presence of undigested material. This phase consists of local, hormonal, and neural responses. These responses stimulate secretions and powerful contractions.

    The intestinal phase begins when chyme enters the small intestine, triggering digestive secretions. This phase controls the rate of gastric emptying. In addition to gastric emptying, when chyme enters the small intestine, it triggers other hormonal and neural events that coordinate the activities of the intestinal tract, pancreas, liver, and gallbladder.