In the last decade, significant progress has been made in the characterization of pH regulation in nervous tissue in vitro. However, little work has been directed at understanding how pH regulatory mechanisms function in vivo. We are interested in how ischemic acidosis can effect pH regulation and modulate the extent of post-ischemic brain damage. We used 31P-MRS to determine normal in vivo pH(i) and pH(e) simultaneously in both the isolated canine brain and the intact rat brain. We observed that the 31P(i) peak in the 31P-MRS spectrum is heterogeneous and can be deconvoluted into a number of discrete constituent peaks. In a series of experiments, we identified these peaks as arising from either extracellular or intracellular sources. In particular, we identified the peak representing the neurons and astrocytes and showed that they maintain different basal pH (6.95 and 7.05, respectively) and behave differently during hypoxic/ischemic episodes.