Ketogenic diet prevents impaired prepulse inhibition of startle in an acute NMDA receptor hypofunction model of schizophrenia

Schizophr Res. 2019 Apr:206:244-250. doi: 10.1016/j.schres.2018.11.011. Epub 2018 Nov 20.


Recent transcriptomic, proteomic and metabolomics studies have highlighted an abnormal cerebral glucose and energy metabolism as one of the potential pathophysiological mechanisms of schizophrenia. This raises the possibility that a metabolically-based intervention might have therapeutic value in the management of schizophrenia, a notion supported by our recent results that a low carbohydrate/high-fat therapeutic ketogenic diet (KD) prevented a variety of behavioural abnormalities induced by pharmacological inhibition of NMDA glutamate receptors. Here we asked if the beneficial effects of KD can be generalised to impaired prepulse inhibition of startle (PPI), a translationally validated endophenotype of schizophrenia, in a pharmacological model in mice. Furthermore, we addressed the issue of whether the effect of KD is linked to the calorie-restricted state typical of the initial phase of KD. We fed male C57BL/6 mice a KD for 7 weeks and tested PPI at 3 and 7 weeks, in the presence and absence of a significant digestible energy deficit, respectively. We used an NMDA receptor hypo-function model of schizophrenia induced by acute injection of dizocilpine (MK-801). We found that KD effectively prevented MK-801-induced PPI impairments at both 3 and 7 weeks, irrespective of the presence or absence of digestible energy deficit. Furthermore, there was a lack of correlation between PPI and body weight changes. These results support the efficacy of the therapeutic KD in a translational model of schizophrenia and furthermore provide evidence against the role of calorie restriction in its mechanism of action.

Keywords: Energy; Glucose metabolism; Ketogenic diet; Schizophrenia; Sensorimotor gating; β-Hydroxybutyrate.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Diet, Ketogenic*
  • Dizocilpine Maleate / pharmacology
  • Excitatory Amino Acid Antagonists / pharmacology*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Prepulse Inhibition* / drug effects
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate / metabolism*
  • Reflex, Startle* / drug effects
  • Schizophrenia / diet therapy*
  • Schizophrenia / metabolism
  • Schizophrenia / physiopathology


  • Excitatory Amino Acid Antagonists
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate
  • Dizocilpine Maleate