Date of Award

Spring 2015

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science



First Advisor

Dr. David Ruskin

Second Advisor

Dr. Charles Swart

Third Advisor



The ketogenic diet (KD) is a restricted carbohydrate, high fat and sufficient protein metabolic therapy that elevates ketones as an alternative fuel source, and that reduces seizures in persons with epilepsy which is often comorbid with autism. Autism is characterized by communication deficits, decreased sociability and repetitive behaviours. A restrictive KD reverses symptoms in the BTBR mouse model of autism but its severity is a factor in its clinical applicability. In a study with the EL mouse model of epilepsy and autism, sex-dependent effects were found where only females displayed the behavioural effects of the KD. In the current study, a strict and a milder KD were tested on female EL mice to compare their effects on behavior, blood chemistry and body weight. This study investigated if increased ketones and lowered blood glucose were necessary for behavioural improvement. In order to do so, female EL mice were fed either a standard rodent chow control diet, the restrictive KD or the moderate KD from five weeks of age. At eight weeks of age, behavioral testing, using the 3-chamber test which measures sociability and self-directed repetitive behaviour (grooming), were conducted in order to determine whether autistic symptoms were still present. In addition, the social transmission of food preference test which measures sociability as well was carried out. Weight, blood glucose and ketone levels were also measured. The diets had very similar behavioural effects on the animals, increasing sociability and reducing repetitive behaviours. Interestingly, the moderate KD caused increased weight and did not lower blood glucose yet still improved autistic behaviours. This suggests that caloric restriction and lowered blood glucose may not be necessary for improved behaviours as had previously been thought. Also, a clinical strength KD may possibly be beneficial for autistic children and should be further studied.


Senior thesis completed at Trinity College for the degree of Bachelor of Science in Neuroscience.