The effect of raising or lowering tryptophan levels on aggression in vervet monkeys

Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 1987 Dec;28(4):503-10. doi: 10.1016/0091-3057(87)90513-2.


Social groups of vervet monkeys (Cercopithecus aethiops) were given amino acid mixtures that were tryptophan-free (T-), nutritionally balanced (B), or contained excess tryptophan (T+). The T- mixture caused a marked decrease in plasma tryptophan and the T+ mixture a large increase. Behavioral observations were made on the animals after administration of the amino acid mixtures both during spontaneous activity and while the (fasted) animals were competing for food newly placed in the feeder. The only effect of the biochemical manipulations on spontaneous aggression was an increase in aggression of the male animals with the T- mixture. During competition for the food the T- mixture increased and the T+ mixture decreased aggression in the males, while the T+ mixture decreased aggression in females. These data indicate that brain 5-hydroxytryptamine can influence aggression in a primate and suggest that altered tryptophan levels can influence aggression more reliably at higher levels of arousal.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aggression / drug effects*
  • Animals
  • Chlorocebus aethiops
  • Diet
  • Female
  • Grooming / drug effects
  • Male
  • Motor Activity / drug effects
  • Sex Factors
  • Sexual Behavior, Animal / drug effects
  • Social Behavior
  • Tryptophan / blood
  • Tryptophan / deficiency
  • Tryptophan / pharmacology*


  • Tryptophan