Uric acid is a naturally occurring, endogenous compound that impacts mental health. In particular, uric acid levels are associated with emotion-related psychopathology (e.g., anxiety and depression). Therefore, understanding uric acid’s impact on the brain would provide valuable new knowledge regarding neural mechanisms that mediate the relationship between uric acid and mental health. Brain regions including the prefrontal cortex, amygdala, and hippocampus underlie stress reactivity and emotion regulation. Thus, uric acid may impact emotion by modifying the function of these brain regions. The present study used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) during a psychosocial stress task to investigate the relationship between baseline uric acid levels (in saliva) and brain function. Results demonstrate that activity within the bilateral hippocampal complex varied with uric acid concentrations. Specifically, activity within the hippocampus and surrounding cortex increased as a function of uric acid level. The current findings suggest that uric acid levels modulate stress-related hippocampal activity. Given that the hippocampus has been implicated in emotion regulation during psychosocial stress, the present findings offer a potential mechanism by which uric acid impacts mental health.
The hippocampal response to psychosocial stress varies with salivary uric acid level.