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

  • Linda Booij (a1), A. J. Willem Van Der Does (a2), P. M. Judith Haffmans (a3), Philip Spinhoven (a2) and Richard J. McNally (a4)...
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.

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Copyright
Corresponding author
Professor A. J. Willem Van der Does, Department of Psychology, Leiden University, Wassenaarseweg 52, 2333 AK Leiden, The Netherlands. Tel +31 71 527 3377; fax: +31 71 527 3619; e-mail: vanderdoes@fsw.leidenuniv.nl
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Declaration of interest

None. Funding detailed in Acknowledgements.

Footnotes
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Acute tryptophan depletion as a model of depressive relapse: Behavioural specificity and ethical considerations

  • Linda Booij (a1), A. J. Willem Van Der Does (a2), P. M. Judith Haffmans (a3), Philip Spinhoven (a2) and Richard J. McNally (a4)...
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