The small intestine is covered by a network of coupled oscillators, the interstitial cells of Cajal (ICC). These oscillators synchronize to generate rhythmic phase waves of contraction. At points of low coupling, oscillations desynchronise, frequency steps occur and every few waves terminates as a dislocation. The amplitude of contractions is modulated at frequency steps. The phase difference between contractions at a frequency step and a proximal reference point increased slowly at first and then, just at the dislocation, increased rapidly. Simultaneous frequency and amplitude modulation (AM/FM) results in a Fourier frequency spectrum with a lower sideband, a so called Lashinsky spectrum, and this was also seen in the small intestine. A model of the small intestine consisting of a chain of coupled Van der Pol oscillators, also demonstrated simultaneous AM/FM at frequency steps along with a Lashinsky spectrum. Simultaneous AM/FM, together with a Lashinsky spectrum, are predicted to occur when periodically-forced or mutually-coupled oscillators desynchronise via a supercritical Andronov–Hopf bifurcation and have been observed before in other physical systems of forced or coupled oscillators in plasma physics and electrical engineering. Thus motility patterns in the intestine can be understood from the viewpoint of very general dynamical principles.