Background: Studies in depressed patients have demonstrated the presence of emotional bias toward negative stimuli, as well as dysregulated brain serotonin function. The present study compared the effects of acute tryptophan depletion (ATD) on both an emotional processing and a planning task in never-depressed healthy volunteers at high and low familial risk for depression.
Methods: Young adults with no personal psychiatric history were stratified into two groups based on family history (n = 25). Participants were enrolled in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled crossover ATD study and completed the affective go/no-go and Tower of London tasks once during each condition.
Results: There was a significant treatment by valence by group interaction on the affective go/no-go, driven primarily by a greater frequency of inappropriate responses to sad than to happy distracters in the high-risk group during ATD. No group differences were observed on the Tower of London.
Conclusions: Asymptomatic individuals at high familial risk for depression showed abnormalities in emotional processing while undergoing experimentally induced tryptophan depletion. These findings support emotional processing disturbances as potential trait-level abnormalities associated with the risk of mood disorder.
Copyright © 2011 Society of Biological Psychiatry. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.