Behavioral and Cognitive Outcomes of Rhesus Macaques Following Neonatal Exposure to Antiseizure Medications

Ricki Colman, Peter Pierre, Julie Adriansjach, Kristin Crosno, Kevin K. Noguchi, Chrysanthy Ikonomidou

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: Exposure of neonatal macaques to the antiseizure medications phenobarbital and midazolam (PbM) causes widespread apoptotic death of neurons and oligodendrocytes. We studied behavior and neurocognitive performance in 12 to 24 month-old macaques treated as neonates with PbM. Methods: A total of 14 monkeys received phenobarbital and midazolam over 24 hours under normothermia (n = 8) or mild hypothermia (n = 6). Controls (n = 8) received no treatment. Animals underwent testing in the human intruder paradigm at ages 12 and 18 months, and a 3-step stimulus discrimination task at ages 12, 18, and 24 months. Results: Animals treated with PbM displayed lower scores for environmental exploration, and higher scores for locomotion and vocalizations compared with controls. Combined PbM and hypothermia resulted in lower scores for aggression and vigilance at 12 months compared with controls and normothermic PbM animals. A mixed-effects generalized linear model was used to test for differences in neurocognitive performance between the control and PbM groups in the first step of the stimulus discrimination task battery (shape center baited to shape center non-baited). The odds of passing this step differed by group (p = 0.044). At any given age, the odds of passing for a control animal were 9.53-fold (95% CI 1.06–85) the odds for a PbM animal. There was also evidence suggesting a higher learning rate in the shape center non-baited for the control relative to the PbM group (Cox model HR 2.13, 95% CI 1.02–4.43; p = 0.044). Interpretation: These findings demonstrate that a 24-hour-long neonatal treatment with a clinically relevant combination of antiseizure medications can have long-lasting effects on behavior and cognition in nonhuman primates. ANN NEUROL 2024;95:57–70.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)57-70
Number of pages14
JournalAnnals of neurology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2024


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