, Volume 126, Issue 2, pp 97–103 | Cite as

Tryptophan depletion and aggressive responding in healthy males

  • F. G. Moeller
  • D. M. Dougherty
  • A. C. Swann
  • D. Collins
  • C. M. Davis
  • D. R. Cherek
Original Investigation


In order to study the effect of decreasing plasma tryptophan levels on aggressive responding in a controlled laboratory setting, we administered two doses (25 g and 100 g) of a tryptophan-free amino acid mixture to ten healthy male subjects after 24 h of a low tryptophan diet. Subjects were screened for current or past psychiatric, or non-psychiatric medical illness. Aggressive responding on a free-operant laboratory measure of aggression (the Point Subtraction Aggression Paradigm) and plasma tryptophan levels were measured before and after drinking the amino acid mixture. There was a significant increase in aggressive responding 5 h after the 100 g mixture and a significant increase in aggressive responding 6 h after the 25 g mixture compared to a baseline day when no drink was administered. There was also a significant decrease in plasma tryptophan at 5 hours after ingestion compared to baseline for both doses of amino acid mixture. This study supports the hypothesis that tryptophan depletion increases aggressive responding in healthy males in a laboratory setting; probably by decreasing brain serotonin.

Key words

Serotonin Tryptophan Aggression 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • F. G. Moeller
    • 1
  • D. M. Dougherty
    • 1
  • A. C. Swann
    • 1
  • D. Collins
    • 1
  • C. M. Davis
    • 1
  • D. R. Cherek
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral SciencesUniversity of Texas Houston Health Science CenterHoustonUSA

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