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L-tryptophan and depressive illness

Abstract

Some drugs which lower the concentration of amines in brain may produce depressive symptoms in man. An example of such a drug is reserpine which has been shown to lower the concentration of 5-hydroxytryptamine (5HT) in the brain.1 Recent studies of depressive illnesses suggest that, in some depressed patients, the cerebral content of 5HT (as reflected by CSF metabolites) is low, probably due more to a low rate of synthesis2 than to increased degradation.3 If reduced brain-5HT is a contributory factor in some depressive illnesses, restoring normal concentrations by promoting synthesis or reducing degradation should ameliorate the illness. However, evidence inconsistent with this hypothesis already exists.4 Furthermore, lack of detailed knowledge of the function of 5HT in the neurones which contain it makes accurate prediction from the animal laboratory to the psychiatric clinic difficult.

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