We determined the diagnostic value of the EEG in young children with Angelman syndrome (AS) and Rett syndrome (RS). EEGs, recorded before 5 years of age, of 10 patients with AS, 10 with RS and 10 with mental retardation of other origin were studied blindly by two examiners for the presence of the following items: (A) 4-6 Hz rhythmic activity of over 200 microV; (B) 2-3 Hz frontal activity of 200-500 microV; (C) posterior spikes; (D) triphasic frontal waves; (E) central and/or centro-temporal spike-wave complexes; and (F) other epileptic discharges. Based on these items the EEGs were scored as AS (A-D); RS (E-F); or other. Examiners never made a mistake between AS and RS. One examiner labeled 6 of 10 AS cases correctly, the other 5; 4 (5) were characterized as 'other.' In RS cases 5 were labeled as 'other' by the first examiner and 3 by the second one. We conclude that EEG patterns of AS and RS are sufficiently different to help differentiate between AS and RS at a young age, which has a bearing on genetic counseling.