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Br J Psychiatry. 2005 Aug;187:148-54.

Acute tryptophan depletion as a model of depressive relapse: behavioural specificity and ethical considerations.

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1
Department of Psychology, Leiden University, Wassenaarseweg 52, 2333 AK Leiden, The Netherlands.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Acute tryptophan depletion transiently induces symptoms in those with remitted depression. The behavioural specificity is uncertain, however. Recently, symptom provocation studies have become controversial, particularly in the USA.

AIMS:

To assess the specificity of acute tryptophan depletion. To investigate systematically the subjective experiences of those taking part in a symptom provocation study.

METHOD:

Twenty individuals with remitted depression underwent acute tryptophan depletion in a double-blind, crossover trial. Psychiatric symptoms and self-schemata relevant to depression were assessed. The quality of the informed consent procedure and subjective experiences were also evaluated.

RESULTS:

Acute tryptophan depletion induced a specific depressive response. The effects were more pronounced in females than in males. Participants were quite satisfied with the informed consent procedure. They had understood that this was a fundamental research project and personal benefits were not expected. However, some participants still found it a positive experience.

CONCLUSIONS:

Acute tryptophan depletion is a suitable model of vulnerability to depression, from both a scientific and an ethical perspective.

PMID:
16055826
DOI:
10.1192/bjp.187.2.148
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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