Gut-brain communication: How the stomach and brain communicate

Project Details

The stomach is the portal to the digestive tract.

The stomach tells the brain about its state:  How full it is, what is the nature of its contents, are any toxins present. The brain reacts by eliciting feelings of hunger, satiety, fullness, nausea or wellness.  In turn, the brain tells the stomach what to do, after integrating information coming from the stomach and other information, including the sight, smell and proximity of food.  For example, the brain can tell the stomach to increase volume to receive food, to mix food, to secrete acid or expel contents.

Miscommunications can lead to changed and dysfunctional motility patterns which can cause severe pain and discomfort to patients with these disorders.  We are investigating this two way communication that is essential to a healthy life.


  • Project supervisors: Ms Madeleine Di Natale, Professor John Furness
  • Project members: Ms Madeleine Di Natale, Professor John Furness, Ms Billie Hunne


Ms Xiaokai Wang and Professor Zhongming Liu (University of Michigan, USA)

Associate Professor Peng Du and Professor Leo Cheng (Auckland University, NZ)

Research Publications

Fakhry J, Stebbing MJ,Hunne B, Bayguinov Y, Ward SM, Sasse KC, Callaghan B, McQuade RM, Furness JB:  Relationships of endocrine cells to each other and to other cell types in the human gastric fundus and corpus.  Cell & Tissue Res 376, 37-49 (2019), DOI: 10.1007/s00441-018-2957-0

Di Natale MR, Hunne B, Liew JJM, Fothergill LJ, Stebbing MJ, Furness JB: Morphologies, dimensions and targets of gastric nitric oxide synthase neurons. Cell and Tissue Research 388, 19-32 (2022)

Avci R, Wickens JD, Sangi M, Athavale ON, Di Natale MR, Furness JB, Du P, Cheng LK.: A computational model of biophysical properties of the rat stomach informed by comprehensive analysis of muscle anatomy. IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology 2022, 4954-4957 (2022). Doi: 10.1109/EMBC48229.2022.9871314

Di Natale MR, Patten L, Molero JC,Stebbing, MJ, Hunne B, Wang X, Liu Z, Furness, JB: Organisation of the musculature of the rat stomach.  J Anat. 240, 711-723 (2022) doi: 10.1111/joa.13587

Di Natale MR, Athavale ON, Wang X, Du P, Cheng LK, Liu Z, Furness JB: Functional and anatomical gastric regions and their relations to motility control. Neurogast Motil, e14560 (2023)

Wang X, Cao J, Han K, Choi M, She Y, Scheven U, Avci R, Du P, Cheng LK, Di Natale MR, Furness JB. Diffeomorphic Surface Modeling for MRI-Based Characterization of Gastric Anatomy and Motility. EEE Transactions on Biomedical Engineering, 70, 2046-2057 (2023) doi: 10.1109/TBME.2023.3234509.

Research Group

Furness laboratory: Digestive physiology and nutrition

Faculty Research Themes


Key Contact

For further information about this research, please contact the research group leader.

Department / Centre

Anatomy and Physiology

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