Tryptophan depletion and risk of depression relapse: A prospective study of tryptophan depletion as a potential predictor of depressive episodes

Francisco A. Moreno, George R. Heninger, Cynthia A. McGahuey, Pedro L. Delgado

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

73 Scopus citations


Background: This study investigated the relationship between depressive symptom response during tryptophan depletion and future depressive episodes. Methods: Twelve subjects with prior major depressive episodes in remission and medication-free for ≥3 months (patients), and 12 matched healthy (control) subjects received two tryptophan depletion tests 1 week apart. During follow-up the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale was administered weekly for 1 month, monthly for 3 months, and once at 6 and 12 months. Results: With results from both tests, tryptophan depletion has a sensitivity of 78%, specificity of 80%, positive predictive value of 70%, and negative predictive value of 86% to identify future depressive episodes. Survival analysis shows that mood response to tryptophan depletion reliably predicts major depressive episodes during the follow-up year (r = .2725, p = .014). Conclusions: Tryptophan depletion may be clinically useful in identifying individuals at risk for future major depressive episodes. (C) 2000 Society of Biological Psychiatry.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)327-329
Number of pages3
JournalBiological Psychiatry
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 15 2000



  • Depletion paradigm
  • Major depression
  • Serotonin
  • Vulnerability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biological Psychiatry

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