Specificity of the tryptophan depletion method. Academic Article uri icon


  • 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.

published proceedings

  • Psychopharmacology (Berl)

author list (cited authors)

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

citation count

  • 60

complete list of authors

  • Klaassen, T||Riedel, WJ||Deutz, NE||van Someren, A||van Praag, HM

publication date

  • January 1999