Large-scale functional network connectivity mediate the associations of gut microbiota with sleep quality and executive functions

Hum Brain Mapp. 2021 Jul;42(10):3088-3101. doi: 10.1002/hbm.25419. Epub 2021 Mar 19.


Network neuroscience has broadly conceptualized the functions of the brain as complex communication within and between large-scale neural networks. Nevertheless, whether and how the gut microbiota influence functional network connectivity that in turn impact human behaviors has yet to be determined. We collected fecal samples from 157 healthy young adults and used 16S sequencing to assess gut microbial diversity and enterotypes. Large-scale inter- and intranetwork functional connectivity was measured using a combination of resting-state functional MRI data and independent component analysis. Sleep quality and core executive functions were also evaluated. Then, we tested for potential associations between gut microbiota, functional network connectivity and behaviors. We found significant associations of gut microbial diversity with internetwork functional connectivity between the executive control, default mode and sensorimotor systems, and intranetwork connectivity of the executive control system. Moreover, some internetwork functional connectivity mediated the relations of microbial diversity with sleep quality, working memory, and attention. In addition, there was a significant effect of enterotypes on intranetwork connectivity of the executive control system, which could mediate the link between enterotypes and executive function. Our findings not only may expand existing biological knowledge of the gut microbiota-brain-behavior relationships from the perspective of large-scale functional network organization, but also may ultimately inform a translational conceptualization of how to improve sleep quality and executive functions through the regulation of gut microbiota.

Keywords: executive functions; functional connectivity; functional magnetic resonance imaging; gut microbiota; large-scale brain networks; sleep quality.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Connectome*
  • Executive Function / physiology*
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Nerve Net / diagnostic imaging
  • Nerve Net / physiology*
  • Sleep Quality*
  • Young Adult