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Signals for nausea and emesis: Implications for models of upper gastrointestinal diseases

      Abstract

      Nausea and vomiting are amongst the most common symptoms encountered in medicine as either symptoms of diseases or side effects of treatments. In a more biological setting they are also important components of an organism's defences against ingested toxins. Identification of treatments for nausea and vomiting and reduction of emetic liability of new therapies has largely relied on the use of animal models, and although such models have proven invaluable in identification of the anti-emetic effects of both 5-hydroxytryptamine3 and neurokinin1 receptor antagonists selection of appropriate models is still a matter of debate. The present paper focuses on a number of controversial issues and gaps in our knowledge in the study of the physiology of nausea and vomiting including: The choice of species for the study of emesis and the underlying behavioural (e.g. neophobia), anatomical (e.g. elongated, narrow abdominal oesophagus with reduced ability to shorten) and physiological (e.g. brainstem circuitry) mechanisms that explain the lack of a vomiting reflex in certain species (e.g. rats); The choice of response to measure (emesis[retching and vomiting], conditioned flavour avoidance or aversion, ingestion of clay[pica], plasma hormone levels[e.g. vasopressin], gastric dysrhythmias) and the relationship of these responses to those observed in humans and especially to the sensation of nausea; The stimulus coding of nausea and emesis by abdominal visceral afferents and especially the vagus—how do the afferents encode information for normal postprandial sensations, nausea and finally vomiting?; Understanding the central processing of signals for nausea and vomiting is particularly problematic in the light of observations that vomiting is more readily amenable to pharmacological treatment than is nausea, despite the assumption that nausea represents “low” intensity activation of pathways that can evoke vomiting when stimulated more intensely.

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