Calorie-restricted ketogenic diet increases thresholds to all patterns of pentylenetetrazol-induced seizures: Critical importance of electroclinical assessment


Address correspondence and reprint requests to A. Nehlig, Ph.D., INSERM 666, Faculty of Medicine, 11 Rue Humann, 67085 Strasbourg Cedex, France. E-mail:


Purpose: Thresholds to pentylenetetrazol (PTZ) seizures were usually based only on clinical symptoms. Our purpose was to use electroclinical patterns to assess the efficacy of a ketogenic and/or calorie-restricted diet on PTZ-induced seizures.

Methods: Forty 50-day-old rats were divided in four weight-matched groups and fed controlled diets: normocalorie carbohydrate (NC), hypocalorie carbohydrate (HC), normocalorie ketogenic (NK), and hypocalorie ketogenic (HK). After 21 days, blood glucose and β-hydroxybutyrate levels were determined and seizures were induced by continuous infusion of PTZ. The clinical and EEG thresholds to each seizure pattern were compared between the different groups.

Results: The electroclinical course of PTZ-induced seizures was similar in all groups. The HK group exhibited higher thresholds than the other ones for most clinical features: absence (p = 0.003), first overt myoclonia (p = 0.028), clonic seizure (p = 0.006), and for EEG features: first spike (p = 0.036), first spike-and-wave discharge (p = 0.014), subcontinuous spike-and-wave discharges (p = 0.005). NK, HC, and NC groups were not significantly different from each other. Blood glucose and β-hydroxybutyrate levels were not correlated with electroclinical seizure thresholds. After the clonic seizure, despite stopping PTZ infusion, a tonic seizure occurred in some animals, without significant difference regarding the diet.

Conclusion: This approach permitted a precise study of the electroclinical course of PTZ-induced seizures. In addition to the usually studied first overt myoclonia, we clearly demonstrated the efficiency of a calorie restricted KD in elevating thresholds to most electroclinical seizure patterns. We confirmed the lack of efficiency of the KD to reduce seizure severity once the seizure has started.