Specificity of the tryptophan depletion method.

T. Klaassen, W.J. Riedel*, N.E.P. Deutz, A. van Someren, H.M. van Praag

*Corresponding author for this work

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European Graduate School for Neurosciences, Maastricht University, The Netherlands.

Thirteen healthy subjects were subjected to tryptophan (TRP) depletion, lysine (LYS) depletion, and a placebo condition in a double blind cross-over study. The aim of the study was to test the specificity of psychological effects induced by TRP depletion. Subjects ingested a 100 g amino acid mixture with or without TRP or LYS. Six hours later, plasma TRP levels had decreased by 77% in the TRP depletion test and LYS levels by 51% in the LYS depletion condition. After 6 h of TRP depletion, subjects reported significantly more tiredness and lowering of mood, compared to subjects in the placebo group, and memory performance declined. After 6 h of LYS depletion, no significant differences in mood and memory compared to placebo were found. We conclude that the effects of TRP depletion on mood and memory are specific for the depletion of TRP and are not caused by the depletion of an amino acid per se. This supports the hypothesis that TRP depletion affects brain serotonin metabolism and not only brain protein metabolism in general.

Publication Types:
Clinical Trial
Randomized Controlled Trial
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)279-286
Number of pages8
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 1999

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