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Int J Neurosci. 1992 Nov-Dec;67(1-4):127-44.

L-tryptophan in neuropsychiatric disorders: a review.

Author information

  • Department of Psychiatry, Albert Einstein College of Medicine/Montefiore Medical Center, Bronx, NY 10461.


Animal data indicate that serotonin (5-HT) is a major neurotransmitter involved in the control of numerous central nervous system functions including mood, aggression, pain, anxiety, sleep, memory, eating behavior, addictive behavior, temperature control, endocrine regulation, and motor behavior. Moreover, there is evidence that abnormalities of 5-HT functions are related to the pathophysiology of diverse neurological conditions including Parkinson's disease, tardive dyskinesia, akathisia, dystonia, Huntington's disease, familial tremor, restless legs syndrome, myoclonus, Gilles de la Tourette's syndrome, multiple sclerosis, sleep disorders, and dementia. The psychiatric disorders of schizophrenia, mania, depression, aggressive and self-injurious behavior, obsessive compulsive disorder, seasonal affective disorder, substance abuse, hypersexuality, anxiety disorders, bulimia, childhood hyperactivity, and behavioral disorders in geriatric patients have been linked to impaired central 5-HT functions. Tryptophan, the natural amino acid precursor in 5-HT biosynthesis, increases 5-HT synthesis in the brain and, therefore, may stimulate 5-HT release and function. Since it is a natural constituent of the diet, tryptophan should have low toxicity and produce few side effects. Based on these advantages, dietary tryptophan supplementation has been used in the management of neuropsychiatric disorders with variable success. This review summarizes current clinical use of tryptophan supplementation in neuropsychiatric disorders.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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