Researchers identify decreased brain pH levels in mouse models of mental disorders

Your body’s acid/alkaline homeostasis, or maintenance of an adequate pH balance in tissues and organs, is important for good health. An imbalance in pH, particularly a shift toward acidity, is associated with various clinical conditions, such as a decreased cardiovascular output, respiratory distress, and renal failure. But is pH also associated with psychiatric disorders?

Researchers at the Institute for Comprehensive Medical Science at Fujita Health University in Japan, along with colleagues from eight other institutions, have identified decreased pH levels in the brains of five different mouse models of mental disorders, including models of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and autism spectrum disorder. This decrease in pH likely reflects an underlying pathophysiology in the brain associated with these mental disorders, according to the study published August 4th in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology.

While post-mortem studies have shown that the brains of patients with the abovementioned mental disorders tend to have a lower pH than those of controls, this phenomenon has been considered to be the result of secondary factors associated with the diseases rather than a primary feature of the diseases themselves. Secondary factors that confound the observation of a decreased brain pH level include antipsychotic treatments and agonal experiences associated with these disorders.

Dr. Miyakawa and his colleagues performed a meta-analysis of existing datasets from ten studies to investigate the pH level of postmortem brains from patients with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. They observed that patients with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder exhibited significantly lower brain pH levels than control participants, even when potential confounding factors were considered (i.e., postmortem interval, age at death, and history of antipsychotic use). “These factors may not be major factors causing a decrease in pH in the postmortem brains of patients with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder,” Miyakawa explains.

The researchers then conducted a systematic investigation of brain pH using five mouse models of psychiatric disorders, including models for schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and autism spectrum disorders. All of the mice used in the study were drug-naive, with equivalent agonal states, postmortem intervals, and ages within each strain. The analyses revealed that in all five mouse models, brain pH was significantly lower than…

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