Mental disorders may be related to the pH of the brain

A group of scientists led by Tsuyoshi Miyakawa, a neurologist at the Fujita University of Health, Japan, set out to test all the main hypotheses about the existence and nature of the relationship between brain acidity and mental disorders. Their results in aggregate became the most convincing testimony to the reality of the connection between high acidity of the brain and mental disorders. The authors described in detail about their work in an article published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology .
The group Tsuyusi Miyakawa analyzed 10 available sets of postmortem data from the brain of more than 400 patients with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. First, they excluded factors that could affect the accuracy of the data, taking into account the history of taking antipsychotics and the age of the patient at the time of death. As they expected, pH levels in schizophrenics and those suffering from bipolar disorder were lower than in healthy people.
In addition, the team conducted a study of five types of mouse models with gene mutations associated with similar disorders and obtained similar results: brain pH levels of two dozen mice that did not take medication were systematically lower than in healthy animals, and lactate levels – higher.
The acidity of the human brain often fluctuates, occasionally experiencing bursts. One of the main causes of these outbursts is carbon dioxide (CO 2 ), continuously released as a result of brain decomposition of sugar to produce energy. However, the general chemistry of the healthy brain remains almost neutral, since other processes, such as breathing, that remove CO 2 from the body, contribute to the status quo . As a result, short-term fluctuations in the acid-base balance usually go unnoticed.
However, an increasing number of studies suggest that in some people even small changes in this balance can be associated with panic disorder and other mental disorders. Recent discoveries confirmed the existence of this relationship and gave grounds for believing that it can play a role in schizophrenia and bipolar affective disorder – studies with a direct measurement of pH in the postmortem brain show that in people with schizophrenia and bipolar affective disorder the pH was lower ( ie, acidity was higher) than in mentally normal people.
In an atmosphere with a high concentration of CO 2 , which can bind to water in the body, forming carbonic acid, people with bipolar affective disorder are more prone to panic attacks than healthy people. Other studies have shown that the brains of people with this disorder produce an excess of lactate – an acid source of energy, continuously produced and consumed by a greedy brain.
But the question remained – whether acidity is associated with mental disorders or due to other causes, such as taking antipsychotics or the physical condition of a person immediately before dying. For example, if a person dies slowly, he stays longer in a state where a lack of oxygen is more likely, and this leads to a change in the total metabolism as a whole. In this situation, the body and the brain turn to ways of obtaining energy that does not depend on oxygen, which can lead to an increase in the level of lactate and, consequently, to a decrease in pH.
Anyway, recently it becomes more obvious that the acidity of the brain can be a key characteristic of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. It is not clear, it is the cause of these disorders or their consequence. One of the hypotheses is that the increase in acidity is the result of increased activity of neurons in these patients, the other is that increased acidity may be a consequence of disturbance of mitochondrial work, and these two hypotheses may not exclude each other.
The next important point of research is to find out the role of low pH in the brain in the chain of cause-effect relationships, for example, whether it can cause changes in consciousness and behavior associated with the diseases under consideration.
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