Purpose: The WAG/Rij strain of rats, a well-established model for absence epilepsy, has comorbidity for depression. These rats exhibit depression-like behavioral symptoms such as increased immobility in the forced swimming test and decreased sucrose intake and preference (anhedonia). These depression-like behavioral symptoms are evident in WAG/Rij rats, both at 3–4 and 5–6 months of age, with a tendency to aggravate in parallel with an increase in seizure duration. Here we investigated whether the behavioral symptoms of depression could be prevented by the suppression of absence seizures.
Methods: Ethosuximide (ETX; 300 mg/kg/day, in the drinking water) was chronically applied to WAG/Rij rats from postnatal day 21 until 5 months. Behavioral tests were done before the cessation of the treatment. Electroencephalography (EEG) recordings were made before and after cessation of treatment to measure seizure severity at serial time-points.
Results: ETX-treated WAG/Rij rats exhibited no symptoms of depression-like behavior in contrast to untreated WAG/Rij rats of the same age. Moreover, treated WAG/Rij rats did not differ from control age-matched Wistar rats. ETX treatment led to almost complete suppression of spike-wave discharges (SWDs) in 5–6 month old WAG/Rij rats. Discontinuation of chronic treatment was accompanied by a gradual emergence of SWDs; however, a persistent reduction in seizure activity was still present 47 days after discontinuation of the chronic treatment.
Discussion: The results suggest that seizure activity is necessary for the expression of depression-like behavioral symptoms and confirm that epileptogenesis can be prevented by early and chronic treatment.