Background: Postoperative neurocognitive disorder (PND) is a common central nervous system complication after undergoing surgery and anesthesia especially in elderly patients, while the therapeutic options are very limited. This study was carried out to investigate the beneficial effects of transcranial near infrared light (NIRL) which was employed to the treatment of PND and propose the involved mechanisms. Methods: The PND mice were established through left carotid artery exposure under isoflurane anesthesia and received transcranial NIRL treatment. Behavioral testing was performed to evaluate the cognitive function of PND mice after transcranial NIRL therapy. Changes in the transcriptomic profiles of prefrontal cortex (PFC) and hippocampus (HP) were identified by next generation sequencing (NGS), and the molecular mechanisms involved were examined by both in vivo mouse model and in vitro cell culture studies. Results: We found that transcranial NIRL therapy effectively ameliorated learning and memory deficit induced by anesthesia and surgery in aged mice. Specifically, we identified down-regulation of interferon regulatory factor 7 (IRF7) in the brains of PND mice that was mechanistically associated with increased pro-inflammatory M1 phenotype of microglia and elevated neuroinflammatory. NIRL treatment produced protective effects through the upregulation of IRF7 expression and reversing microglial phenotypes from pro-inflammatory to neuroprotective, resulting in reduced brain damage and improved cognitive function in PND mice. Conclusion: Our results indicate that transcranial NIRL is an effective and safe therapy for PND via alleviating neuroinflammation, and IRF7 plays a key transcription factor in regulating the M1-to-M2 switch of microglia.
- Interferon regulatory factor 7
- Microglial phenotype switch
- Near infrared light therapy
- Postoperative neurocognitive disorder