Gastrointestinal (GI) MRI

GI MRI research group

Aim and expertise

We are an established multi-disciplinary research group encompassing gastroenterology and MRI physics. We aim to investigate gastrointestinal (GI) function, both physiological and pathological, by developing and using novel magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) methods. We have a particular interest in studying the GI response to foods and to drugs. We collaborate with academic physiologists, food scientists, surgeons, pharmaceutical scientists, sport scientists and partners from the food and pharmaceutical industries in the UK and world-wide.

A collection of scans and photos from the GI MRI Research Group

Research issue

Over the last 2 decades we have established MRI as a non-invasive method of quantifying key gut function parameters in both health and disease. Our main research interest is to use GI MRI to study the physiology of the GI tract. We have developed and validated a range of key parameters including gastric emptying, small bowel water content, motility of the small and large bowel, colonic volume and water content, and transit time. We use these measures to study postprandial fluid fluxes and the gastro-colonic response to feeding. We aim to develop our range of novel tests of GI function further to assess physical factors in food influencing digestion and satiety. We carry out in-body imaging of foods and beverages, define mechanisms and subtypes of functional GI disease and study the mode of action of GI targeted drugs and laxative formulations.

What we are doing

  1. We study the effect of drugs and food on colonic water content and the impact of therapeutic drugs and food substances in the treatment of bowel disorders
  2. We investigate disorders of gut function and characterise a range of gut disorders including irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, constipation, coeliac disease, scleroderma, and cystic fibrosis.

Current projects

  • Using MRI to study the effect of a stimulant laxatives on gut secretions, water content and motility of both the large and  small bowel

  • Studying structural and functional bowel abnormalities in Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis

  • Using MRI to optimise the use of  viscous fibre to modify fermentation of poorly absorbed carbohydrates with the aim of reducing gastrointestinal symptoms

  • Using MRI to study the pathophysiology of cystic fibrosis including impaired pancreatic secretions and impaired gut motility

  • Using MRI to assess the response to new drugs, shown to significantly improve lung function in cystic fibrosis but whose effect on the pancreas and gut is as yet unknown

  • Developing new MRI methods to quantify gastrointestinal pH and flow through the small bowel using multiple MRI markers, both biological and synthetic

  • Carrying out a meta-analysis of our database of 33 previous studies to understand the variability of measurements in order to accurately power future studies

  • Translating our methods to the paediatric arena

  • Developing a new medical device to study gut transit in paediatric constipation


Here are some of our key publications in the last five years.

See list
  1. RA Scott, HG Williams, CL Hoad, A Alyami, CA Ortori, JI Grove, L Marciani, GW Moran,  RC Spiller, A Menys, GP Aithal and PA Gowland. Magnetic resonance measures of small bowel wall T2 are associated with increased permeability. J Magn Reson Imaging in press 2020.
  2. H Sharif, N Abrehart, CL Hoad, K Murray, AC Perkins, M Smith, PA Gowland, RC Spiller, R Harris, S Loganathan, M Papadopoulos, K Frost, Young Persons Advisory Group, D Devadason and L Marciani. Feasibility study of a new MRI mini-capsule device to measure whole gut transit time in paediatric constipation. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr 71: 604-611, 2020.
  3. V Wilkinson-Smith, A Menys, C Bradley, M Corsetti, L Marciani, D Atkinson, C Coupland, SA Taylor, P Gowland, R Spiller and C Hoad. The MRI colonic function test: reproducibility of the macrogol stimulus challenge. Neurogastroenterol Motil 32, e13942, 2020.
  4. C Ng, NS Dellschaft, CL Hoad, L Marciani, L Ban, AP Prayle, HL Barr, A Jaudszus, JG Mainz, RC Spiller, P Gowland, G Major and AR Smyth. Postprandial changes in gastrointestinal function and transit in cystic fibrosis assessed by magnetic resonance imaging. J Cyst Fibros in press 2020.
  5. D Gunn, R Murthy, G Major, V Wilkinson-Smith, C Hoad, L Marciani, J Remes-Troche, S Gill, M Rossi, HC Harris, FJ Warren, K Whelan and R Spiller. Contrasting effects of viscous and particulate fibre on colonic fermentation in vitro and in vivo, and their impact on intestinal water studied by magnetic resonance imaging in a randomized trial. Am J Clin Nutr 112: 595-602, 2020.
  6. A Khalaf, CL Hoad, A Menys, A Nowak, S Radford, SA Taylor, K Latief, M Lingaya, Y Falcone, G Singh, RC Spiller, PA Gowland, L Marciani and GW Moran. Gastrointestinal peptides and small bowel hypomotility are possible causes for fasting and postprandial symptoms in active Crohn’s disease. Am J Clin Nutr 111, 131-140, 2020.
  7. J Alyami, E Whitehouse, GE Yakubov, SE Pritchard, CL Hoad, E Blackshaw, K Heissam, SM Cordon, HFJ Bligh, RC Spiller, IA Macdonald, GP Aithal, PA Gowland, MA Taylor and L Marciani. Glycaemic, gastrointestinal, hormonal and appetitive responses to pearl millet or oats porridge breakfasts: a randomized, crossover trial in healthy humans. Br J Nutr 122, 1142-1154, 2019.
  8. A Menys, C Hoad, R Spiller, M Scott, D Atkinson, L Marciani and S Taylor. Spatio-Temporal Motility MRI (STMM) analysis of the stomach and colon. Neurogastroenterol Motil e13557, 2019.
  9. J Alyami, N Ladd, SEW Pritchard, CL Hoad, AA Sultan, RC Spiller, PA Gowland, IA Macdonald, GP Aithal, L Marciani and MA Taylor. Glycaemic, gastrointestinal and appetite responses to breakfast porridges from ancient cereal grains: a MRI pilot study in healthy humans. Food Res Int 118, 49-57, 2019.
  10. V Wilkinson-Smith, N Dellschaft, J Ansell, C Hoad, L Marciani, P Gowland and R Spiller. Mechanisms underlying effects of kiwifruit on intestinal function shown by MRI in healthy volunteers. Aliment Pharmacol Ther 49, 759–768, 2019.
  11. G Major, K Murray, G Singh, A Nowak, CL Hoad, L Marciani, A Silos-Santiago, CB Kurtz, JM Johnston, P Gowland and R Spiller. Demonstration of differences in colonic volumes, transit, chyme consistency and response to psyllium between healthy and constipated subjects using Magnetic Resonance Imaging. Neurogastroenterol Motil, e13400, 2018.
  12. G Major, S Pritchard, K Murray, JP Alappadan, C Hoad, L Marciani, P Gowland and R Spiller. Colon hypersensitivity to distension, rather than excessive gas production, produces carbohydrate-related symptoms in individuals with Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Gastroenterology 152, 124-133, 2017.
  13. C Lam, G Chaddock, L Marciani, C Costigan, E Cox, C Hoad, S Pritchard, P Gowland and R Spiller. Distinct abnormalities of small bowel and regional colonic volumes in subtypes of irritable bowel syndrome revealed by MRI. Am J Gastro 112:346-355, 2017.
  14. C Lam, G Chaddock, L Marciani, C Costigan, J Paul, E Cox, C Hoad, A Menys, S Pritchard, K Garsed, S Taylor, D Atkinson, P Gowland and R Spiller. Colonic response to laxative ingestion as assessed by MRI differs in constipated irritable syndrome compared to functional constipation. Neurogastroenterol Motil 28, 861-870, 2016.
  15. CL Hoad, A Menys, K Garsed, L Marciani, V Hamy, K Murray, C Costigan, D Atkinson, G Major, RC Spiller, SA Taylor and PA Gowland. Colon wall motility: comparison of novel quantitative semi-automatic measurements using cine-MRI. Neurogastroenterol Motil 28, 327-355, 2016.

 Please see each group members' profiles for more publication details.







GI_MRI, Nottingham Digestive Diseases Centre

The University of Nottingham
School of Medicine
Nottingham, NG7 2UH