Because brain serotonin levels depend directly on the amounts of exogenous tryptophan (TRP) available for its synthesis, amounts of TRP in the diet may be manipulated to alter the corresponding levels of serotonin. This technique has been used for probing the role of serotonin in mediating various forms of pyschopathology. In this study, 16 patients meeting DSM III-R criteria for schizophrenia (n = 14) or schizoaffective disorder (n = 2) were assessed for the effects of acute dietary TRP depletion under controlled conditions. The hypothesis was that lowering of serotonin would result in a diminution of ‘positive’ and/or ‘negative’ symptoms of psychotic disorders. No clinically or statistically significant improvement compared to baseline occurred when TRP depletion was imposed. Indeed, there was a statistically significant deterioration on measures of negative symptoms. The results are discussed in the context of the methodological issues.

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