The basic driving unit of oscillatory electrical activity in stomach and intestine is the slow wave, a propagating depolarization of myogenic origin. The slow wave controls contractile activity in the intestine by triggering action potential bursts, while in the stomach there is both action potential and spike-free slow wave activation. This review attempts to summarize recent characterizations of the slow wave and to explore in detail the evidence, which suggests that the mechanisms which generate the electrical oscillations are quite closely coupled to metabolic processes.

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