Behavioural effects of acute tryptophan depletion in healthy male volunteers
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Acute tryptophan depletion (ATD) studies have been used to assess the role of the serotonergic system in various aspects of human behaviour. Changes in mood have already been described in selected groups of individuals submitted to ATD. The present study was a randomized, double-blind, cross-over trial designed to evaluate the effects of ATD on mood, memory, attention and induced anxiety in normal male volunteers. Twelve healthy male volunteers were submitted to two separate sessions of ATD, 1 week apart. Drinks containing either a balanced mixture of amino acids (B) or a similar mixture devoid of tryptophan (T-) were administered in each session. Mood was assessed using self-rating scales. Attention and memory were assessed using a battery of psychological tests. Anxiety induction was carried out using a simulation of public speaking. Blood levels of tryptophan were assessed before and after the B and T- drinks. Results showed that ATD markedly decreased plasma tryptophan (p < 0.0001). Mood ratings, memory and attention were not changed by the T- drink. There was no difference among the anxiety levels measured under T- or B mixtures. These data supports the notion that ATD does not change mood and cognitive function in healthy subjects.
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