Enteric Neuroscience Program

Enteric Neuroscience Program

The Enteric Neuroscience Program (ENSP) is composed of a cohesive group of scientists and physicians with strong, independent, grant-supported research programs in the biology of the neuromuscular system of the gastrointestinal tract. Our clinical and research emphasis is the acquisition of new knowledge about the molecular, cellular and physiological processes that control gastrointestinal motility. Our objective is to translate this knowledge into understanding motility disorders and to develop medical and surgical therapies for patients with gastrointestinal motility disorders.


Basic and clinical research in gastrointestinal motility at Mayo has been a mainstay of research in the Department of Physiology and Biophysics and the Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology and the Department of Surgery for over 50 years.

The Program initially established its reputation for work in characterizing the rhythmic electrical activity which occurs in smooth muscles of the esophagus, stomach and intestines and for identifying the patterns of motility throughout the gastrointestinal tract and is now acknowledged as a preeminent motility center both nationally and internationally.

Over 50 basic science investigators and 90 physician-scientists have received training in the Program. Many of the former trainees and postdoctoral research fellows are now chairs of departments and divisions in the U.S and other countries.

Current research and education

The interests and activities have evolved to include several facets of molecular and cell biology, gastrointestinal regulatory physiology and therapies. ENSP reflects the broad initiatives of its members in research, practice and education.

  • Basic research activities include understanding the molecular, genetic, cellular and physiological regulatory mechanisms that underlie gastrointestinal smooth muscle contraction, nerve reflexes within the gut wall and between the gut and brain, and mechanisms that underlie sensory nerve function.
  • Clinical research activities are focused on developing and testing new diagnostic tools to: understand pathophysiological mechanisms of these disorders and to develop treatment options for patients with gastrointestinal motility disorders including irritable bowel syndrome, reflux esophagitis, non-ulcer dyspepsia, pseudo-obstruction, gastroparesis, constipation, pelvic floor disorders and fecal incontinence. A recent addition to the clinical research armamentarium has been the establishment of an outcomes research program with a focus on reflux disease, non-ulcer dyspepsia and irritable bowel syndrome.
  • Educational activities include training postdoctoral research fellows and gastroenterology trainees in the field of enteric sciences, and educating patients, practicing physicians and investigators on gastrointestinal motility disorders.

Facts and figures

The Enteric Neuroscience Program currently has 25 members from several divisions and departments in Rochester, Jacksonville and Scottsdale.

The basic science research laboratories on the Rochester campus are located in the Guggenheim, Medical Science Building, and Mayo Clinic Hospital, Saint Marys Campus buildings while the clinical laboratories are located in the Mayo building, the Mayo Clinic Hospital, Saint Marys Campus buildings and in the Charlton building.

Over 100 original research articles have been published with two or more authors being current members of ENSP, a testament to the strength and breadth of enteric neuroscience-based research at Mayo and to the collaborative nature of the research effort.

There are currently 25 active ENSP clinical trials throughout the Mayo system. Collaborative studies take place between the Rochester, Jacksonville, and Scottsdale campuses. In Rochester, patients are seen in a specialized motility clinic staffed by a clinical member of the faculty and have access to the latest diagnostic and treatment options including ongoing drug trials. The 5 members of ENSP with a primary lab-based research interest in gastrointestinal motility are funded by 9 R01s with total NIH direct funding of approximately $10 million. There are 20 fellows in program and over 3000 patients are seen in the ENSP motility clinic.