Neuropsychological studies on adolescents with phenylketonuria returned to phenylalanine-restricted diets

Am J Ment Retard. 1987 Nov;92(3):255-62.


Nine adolescents with phenylketonuria (PKU), who had been on unrestricted diets for 2 to 11 years, underwent serial neuropsychological testing over two consecutive 4- to 5-week periods during which each was maintained on a low-phe diet supplemented in a triple-blind fashion either with L-phe (high phe) or L-alanine (low phe). Assignment to the initial condition was done randomly, and the alternate condition was substituted at the end of the first 4- to 5-week period. In 6 of 7 subjects with PKU, baseline median choice reaction times (RTs) were slower than those of controls matched for age, sex, handedness, and Full-Scale IQ (WISC-R). A highly significant improvement occurred during the low-phe phases of the study. Results suggest that adolescents with PKU on unrestricted diets have a neuropsychological deficit that is out of proportion to their overall intellectual handicap. Moreover, this deficit appears to be at least partly reversible by return to dietary phe restriction despite years of hyperphenylalaninemia.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intelligence Tests
  • Male
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Phenylalanine / administration & dosage*
  • Phenylketonurias / diet therapy*
  • Phenylketonurias / psychology
  • Random Allocation
  • Reaction Time


  • Phenylalanine