On January 7, 2024, Dr. Evgenia Sitnikova's review on behavioral and neuro-cognitive comorbidities in rats with a genetic predisposition to absence epilepsy was published in the journal Biomedicines. Absence epilepsy is a non-convulsive type of epilepsy characterized by a sudden decrease in consciousness. Absence epilepsy is a disorder of the thalamo-cortical system, and it is accompanied by neurocognitive comorbidities. Absence-like seizures have been observed in many strains of albino laboratory rats, including Wistar, Sprague–Dawley, and Long Evans. Spontaneous absence-like seizures are common in adult Wistar rats, so caution should be exercised when using Wistar rats as controls. The specially bred GAERS (Genetic Absence Epilepsy Rats from Strasbourg) and WAG/Rij (Wistar Albino Rats from Rijswijk) rats are genetic models of absence epilepsy, which show behavioral and cognitive impairments similar to those of patients with absence epilepsy. In WAG/Rij rats, deficit of executive function and impairment of memory are associated with epilepsy severity. This review discusses depressive and anxiety-like behavior in GAERS and WAG/Rij rats, sex differences in concomitant cognitive impairment, and high emotionality in genetically predisposed rats. In order to better comprehend the causes of neurocognitive dysfunction in absence epilepsy, the author suggests using the concept of the "cognitive thalamus".
Keywords: genetic animal models; spontaneous absence epilepsy; drug-naive rats; fear-motivated learning; anxiety-like symptoms; depression-like symptoms; cognitive thalamus