Author Date


Degree Name



Physiology and Developmental Biology


Life Sciences

Defense Date


Publication Date


First Faculty Advisor

Jeff Edwards

First Faculty Reader

Sterling Sudweeks

Honors Coordinator

Roy Silcox


Learning, Memory, Ketogenic Diet, Synapatic Plasticity, LTP, BHB


The ketogenic diet (KD) originated as a treatment for epilepsy nearly a century ago, though its neurological effects are not completely understood. In recent years the diet has resurged as a weight loss aid, reinvigorating research investigating its effects on the nervous system. Notably, the KD alters the concentration of glucose and ketones in the brain, and recent research suggests that the elevated ketone concentration, in the form of beta-hydroxybutyrate, induced by the diet enhances recognition memory and mitochondrial efficiency in the hippocampus. To further explore the effects of the KD, we examined its cognitive effects on spatial memory and synaptic plasticity in the CA1 region of the hippocampus.

We utilized rodents as models of learning and memory, and investigated our question through the use of behavioral and electrophysiological assays. The rodents were divided into one of two treatment groups, either a 3-4 week high lipid diet, enriched with a ketone ester, to increase ketone bodies in vivo, or bathing hippocampal slices in a controlled amount of beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB)-enriched artificial cerebrospinal fluid (ACSF) to produce a higher concentration of ketones than was produced in rodents in vivo. Following the diet, its effects on spatial memory were measured by performance in the Morris Water Maze, and effects on synaptic plasticity in both the diet and enriched-ACSF groups were determined by theta-burst induced hippocampal CA1 Long-Term Potentiation (LTP) field electrophysiology experiments. We observed no difference in young mice, but an increase of LTP in young female rats.