Aspartame Research Library

Epilepsy Res. 1991 Mar;8(2):122-33.

Amino acids, monoamines and audiogenic seizures in genetically epilepsy-prone rats: effects of aspartame.

Dailey JW, Lasley SM, Burger RL, Bettendorf AF, Mishra PK, Jobe PC.

Department of Basic Sciences, University of Illinois College of Medicine, Peoria 61656.

It has been suggested that aspartame facilitates seizures in man and animals because phenylalanine, one of its major metabolites, interferes with brain transport of neurotransmitter precursors and alters the synthesis of monoamine neurotransmitters such as norepinephrine, dopamine and/or serotonin. This facilitation is purportedly more likely in subjects predisposed to seizures. One test of this hypothesis would be to administer a wide range of aspartame doses to subjects whose seizure predisposition is dependent on abnormalities in monoaminergic function. Genetically epilepsy-prone rats (GEPRs) have a broadly based seizure predisposition that is based, in part, on widespread central nervous system noradrenergic and serotonergic deficits. Further reductions in the functional state of these neurotransmitters increases seizure severity in GEPRs. Thus, GEPRs appear ideally suited for testing the hypothesis that aspartame facilitates seizures by interfering with central nervous system monoamines. Oral administration of acute (50-2000 mg/kg) or sub-chronic (up to 863 mg/kg/day for 28 days) doses of aspartame did not alter seizure severity in either of two types of GEPRs. Not surprisingly, acute aspartame doses produced dramatic changes in plasma and brain amino acid concentrations. Hypothesized alterations in monoamine neurotransmitter systems were largely absent. Indeed, increases in norepinephrine concentration, rather than the hypothesized decreases, were the most evident alterations in these neurotransmitter systems. We conclude that aspartame does not facilitate seizures in GEPRs and that convincing evidence of seizure facilitation in any species is lacking.