Of 100 randomly chosen, adult male Wistar rats in the breeding colony at the Centre de Neurochimie , Strasbourg, 31 presented spontaneous, nonconvulsive epileptic seizures: wave-and-spike discharges, 7-11 cycles/s, 200-600 microV, accompanied by behavioral arrest and myoclony of the vibrissae and of the facial and cervical muscles. Pentylenetetrazol (PTZ) 10 and 20 mg/kg increased the duration and number of seizures by 100-150% in these spontaneously epileptic animals, and caused identical seizures in apparently normal rats. Sodium valproate, diazepam, trimethadione, and ethosuximide suppressed the spontaneous seizures and protected against PTZ-induced seizures in a dose-dependent fashion. Carbamazepine and diphenylhydantoin were inefficacious or aggravative in the two cases. The clinical, EEG, and pharmacological observations suggest that the Wistar rats displaying spontaneous seizures constitute a valid physiological and pharmacological model of petit mal absences, presenting advantages compared to the usual models in which seizures are induced by injected epileptogenic drugs.