University of Iowa neuroscientist John Wemmie, M.D., Ph.D., is interested in the effect of acid in the brain. His studies suggest that increased acidity or low pH, in the brain is linked to panic disorders, anxiety, and depression. But his work also suggests that changes in acidity are important for normal brain activity too.
"We are interested in the idea that pH might be changing in the functional brain because we've been hot on the trail of receptors that are activated by low pH," says Wemmie, a UI associate professor of psychiatry. "The presence of these receptors implies the possibility that low pH might be playing a signaling role in normal brain function."
Wemmie's studies have shown that these acid-sensing proteins are required for normal fear responses and for learning and memory in mice. However, while you can buy a kit to measure the pH (acidity) of your garden soil, there currently is no easy way to measure pH changes in the brain.
Wemmie teamed up with Vincent Magnotta, Ph.D., UI associate professor of radiology, psychiatry, and biomedical engineering, and using Magnotta's expertise in developing MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)-based brain imaging techniques, the researchers developed and tested a new, non-invasive method to detect and monitor pH changes in living brains.
According to Wemmie, the new imaging technique provides the best evidence so far that pH changes do occur with normal function in the intact human brain. The findings were published May 7 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) Early Edition.
Specifically, the study showed the MRI-based method was able to detect global changes in brain pH in mice. Breathing carbon dioxide, which lowers pH (makes the brain more acidic), increased the signal, while bicarbonate injections, which increases brain pH, decreased the MRI signal. The relationship between the signal and the pH was linear over the range tha
|Contact: Jennifer Brown|
University of Iowa Health Care