Enteral nutrition is often mandatory, especially for patients in vegetative or minimally conscious state. However, its application is nonviable in certain cases due to various adverse effects. Some of these are explained by absence of the cephalic phase of digestion, during which exocrine, endocrine, and motor physiological responses prepare the digestive system to receive, digest, transform, and utilize ingested nutrients. These responses result from the stimulation by nutrients of cephalic sensory systems, mainly in the oropharyngeal cavity, and can also be elicited by food-related thoughts or expectations. The digestive system appears able to rapidly assess the suitability of food and transmit this information to the brain. The vagus nerve and its brainstem relays in the caudal nucleus of the solitary tract (NST) and parabrachial complex appear to participate in the anatomic pathway responsible for this rapid processing. Thus, blockade of the vagus nerve, NST, or external lateral parabrachial region (LPBe) interrupts expression of conditioned taste preferences induced by administration of “predigested” food, while LPBe activation by electric stimulation generates similar preferences to those observed after cephalic food administration. This review may help design enteral diets better adapted to digestive physiology and develop pharmacological interventions against adverse effects of enteral nutrition.
Part of the book: Feed Your Mind