Brief report| Volume 48, ISSUE 4, P327-329, August 15, 2000

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


      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.


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