Unravelling the complexities of the stomach’s control systems

The stomach is the portal to the digestive tract. It regulates appetite and controls the delivery of nutrients to the small intestine where they are absorbed.

To serve these functions, it has an extensive intrinsic (enteric) nervous system plus nerve and hormonal connections with the brain and intestines. Moreover, it contains specialised cells that direct its rhythmic activities.

Just how these sophisticated control systems are orchestrated is not well understood, which holds back the development of therapies for gastric disorders.

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 other information, including the sight, smell and proximity of food. The intestine tells the stomach about its digestive capacity in relation to nutrient load and the stomach reacts by changing emptying and acid secretion.

This project will use advanced methods to unravel these control systems, including collaborating with other research groups in Australia, the US and New Zealand.


  • To determine the intricacies of gastric control, especially how it interacts with the brain and controls digestive processes.


Our research has developed new tools to study the control of the stomach, notably electrophysiological approaches, functional imaging and high-resolution imaging for nerve pathway analysis.

We are using these tools to develop a new understanding of brain-stomach-intestine control.

Research team


Dr Madeleine Di Natale


  • Billie Hunne
  • Dr Xiaokai Wang – University of Michigan
  • Professor Zhongming Liu – University of Michigan
  • Dr Lincon Stamp – University of Melbourne (Anatomy and Physiology)
  • Dr Marlene Hao – University of Melbourne (Anatomy and Physiology)
  • Associate Professor Peng Du – Auckland University
  • Professor Leo Cheng – Auckland University

Take part in this project

Student applications

Students who are applying to study at The Florey can register their interest in this project. Refer to our step-by-step guide to help you with your application.

How to apply

Accepting students

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