23 June 2021
The gut and brain interact constantly in a complex fashion. Its intricacy and intrigue is progressively being revealed in the study of the “gut–brain axis”. Among many factors, abnormal light exposure is a potential powerful stressor, which is becoming ever more pervasive in our modern society. However, little is known about how stress, induced by staying up late by light, affects the gut–brain axis. We addressed this question by extending the normal circadian light for four hours at night in fifteen male tree shrews to simulate the pattern of staying up late in humans. The behavior, biochemical tests, microbiota dynamics, and brain structure of tree shrews were evaluated. The simple prolongation of light in the environment resulted in substantial changes of body weight loss, behavioral differences, total sleep time reduction, and an increased level of urine cortisol. These alterations were rescued by the treatment of either ketamine or washed microbiota transplantation (WMT). Importantly, the sustainability of WMT effect was better than that of ketamine. Magnetic Resonance Imaging analysis indicated that ketamine acted on the hippocampus and thalamus, and WMT mainly affected the piriform cortex and lateral geniculate nucleus. In conclusion, long-term light stimulation could change the behaviors, composition of gut microbiota and brain structure in tree shrews. Targeting microbiota thus certainly holds promise as a treatment for neuropsychiatric disorders, including but not limited to stress-related diseases.