Evidence for altered energy metabolism, increased lactate, and decreased pH in schizophrenia brain: A focused review and meta-analysis of human postmortem and magnetic resonance spectroscopy studies

Academic Article


  • Though the pathophysiology of schizophrenia remains poorly understood, altered brain energy metabolism is increasingly implicated. Here, we conduct meta-analyses of the available human studies measuring lactate or pH in schizophrenia brain and discuss the accumulating evidence for increased lactate and decreased pH in schizophrenia brain and evidence linking these to negative and cognitive symptom severity. Meta-analysis of six postmortem studies revealed a significant increase in lactate in schizophrenia brain while meta-analysis of 14 magnetic resonance spectroscopy studies did not reveal a significant change in brain pH in schizophrenia. However, only five of these studies were likely sufficiently powered to detect differences in brain pH, and meta-analysis of these five studies found a nonsignificant decrease in pH in schizophrenia brain. Next, we discuss evidence for altered brain energy metabolism in schizophrenia and how this may underlie a buildup of lactate and decreased pH. This alteration, similar to the Warburg effect extensively described in cancer biology, involves diminished tricarboxylic acid cycle and oxidative phosphorylation along with a shift toward increased reliance on glycolysis for energy production. We then explore the role that mitochondrial dysfunction, oxidative stress, and hypoxia-related changes in gene expression likely play in this shift in brain energy metabolism and address the functional consequences of lowered brain pH in schizophrenia including alterations in neurotransmitter regulation, mRNA stability, and overall patterns of gene expression. Finally, we discuss how altered energy metabolism in schizophrenia brain may serve as an effective target in the treatment of this illness.
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    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Pruett BS; Meador-Woodruff JH
  • Start Page

  • 29
  • End Page

  • 42
  • Volume

  • 223