Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2018

Document Type


Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors


Integrative Physiology

First Advisor

Dr. Monika Fleshner

Second Advisor

Dr. Mark Opp

Third Advisor

Dr. Heidi Day

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Christine Macdonald


Bacteria living in the gastrointestinal tract (gut microbiota) provide beneficial roles for the host including communication with the central nervous system. Recent evidence, for example, suggests that gut-brain signaling may modulate sleep patterns. Since sleep disorders are prevalent in military personnel due to chronic stressors including circadian disruption (CDR), this study was designed to explore a potential intervention known to be efficacious in preventing several negative physiological impacts of acute intense stressor exposure, including disturbed sleep and reduced alpha diversity of the gut microbiota. Prebiotic diets are rich in plant fibers that stimulate growth and activity of healthy promoting gut flora. The current study tested the hypothesis that a prebiotic diet would reduce the negative impacts of CDR on sleep. Male Sprague Dawley rats were implanted with biotelemetry devices to record sleep/wake activity, core body temperature (CBT), and locomotor activity (LA) via electroencephalographic (EEG) leads. The results were that rats fed a prebiotic diet compared to a calorically matched control diet were exhibited protection against CDR-evoked reductions in rapid eye movement (REM) sleep (bouts and percent time) during the light phase after four days of re-alignment. In contrast, the impact of CDR on CBT and LA was not impacted by the prebiotic diet.