Rett syndrome before regression: A time window of overlooked opportunities for diagnosis and intervention

Livia Cosentino, Daniele Vigli, Francesca Franchi, Giovanni Laviola, Bianca De Filippis

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Rett syndrome (RTT) is a rare neurological disorder primarily affecting females, causing severe cognitive, social, motor and physiological impairments for which no cure currently exists. RTT clinical diagnosis is based on the peculiar progression of the disease, since patients show an apparently normal initial development with a subsequent sudden regression at around 2 years of age. Accumulating evidences are rising doubts regarding the absence of early impairments, hence questioning the concept of regression. We reviewed the published literature addressing the pre-symptomatic stage of the disease in both patients and animal models with a particular focus on behavioral, physiological and brain abnormalities. The emerging picture delineates subtle, but reliable impairments that precede the onset of overt symptoms whose bases are likely set up already during embryogenesis. Some of the outlined alterations appear transient, suggesting compensatory mechanisms to occur in the course of development. There is urgent need for more systematic developmental analyses able to detect early pathological markers to be used as diagnostic tools and precocious targets of time-specific interventions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)115-135
Number of pages21
JournalNeuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2019


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