Improvement in motor and exploratory behavior in Rett syndrome mice with restricted ketogenic and standard diets

Epilepsy Behav. 2009 Jun;15(2):133-41. doi: 10.1016/j.yebeh.2009.02.038. Epub 2009 Feb 26.


Rett syndrome (RTT) is a rare X-linked autistic-spectrum neurological disorder associated with impaired energy metabolism, seizure susceptibility, progressive social behavioral regression, and motor impairment primarily in young girls. The objective of this study was to examine the influence of restricted diets, including a ketogenic diet (KD) and a standard rodent chow diet (SD), on behavior in male Mecp2(308/y) mice, a model of RTT. The KD is a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet that has anticonvulsant efficacy in children with intractable epilepsy and may be therapeutic in children with RTT. Following an 11-day pretrial period, adult wild-type and mutant Rett mice were separated into groups that were fed either an SD in unrestricted or restricted amounts or a ketogenic diet (KetoCal) in restricted amounts for a total of 30 days. The restricted diets were administered to reduce mouse body weight by 20-23% compared to the body weight of each mouse before the initiation of the diet. All mice were subjected to a battery of behavioral tests to determine the influence of the diet on the RTT phenotype. We found that performance in tests of motor behavior and anxiety was significantly worse in male RTT mice compared to wild-type mice and that restriction of either the KD or the SD improved motor behavior and reduced anxiety. We conclude that although both restricted diets increased the tendency of Rett mice to explore a novel environment, the beneficial effects of the KD were due more to calorie restriction than to the composition of the diet. Our findings suggest that calorically restricted diets could be effective in reducing the anxiety and in improving motor behavior in girls with RTT.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Body Weight / genetics
  • Conditioning, Operant / physiology
  • Diet, Ketogenic / methods*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Eating / physiology
  • Exploratory Behavior / physiology*
  • Hand Strength
  • Male
  • Methyl-CpG-Binding Protein 2 / genetics
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Motor Activity / physiology*
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Reflex / physiology
  • Rett Syndrome / diet therapy
  • Rett Syndrome / genetics
  • Rett Syndrome / physiopathology*
  • Rotarod Performance Test


  • Mecp2 protein, mouse
  • Methyl-CpG-Binding Protein 2