Acute effect of altered tryptophan levels and alcohol on aggression in normal human males

Psychopharmacology (Berl). 1995 Jun;119(4):353-60. doi: 10.1007/BF02245849.


Normal males received amino acid mixtures designed to raise or lower tryptophan availability, and thus to raise or lower brain serotonin synthesis. They also received alcoholic or non-alcoholic drinks. The subjects were tested in the Taylor Competitive Reaction Time Task in which they competed against a (non-existent) partner in a reaction time task. The magnitude of electric shocks that the subjects were willing to give to their bogus partner was used as a measure of aggression. Lowered tryptophan levels and ingestion of alcohol were associated with increased aggression. Our data support the idea that low serotonin levels may be involved in the etiology of aggression. They suggest that subjects with low brain serotonin levels may be particularly susceptible to alcohol-induced violence.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aggression*
  • Electroshock
  • Ethanol / pharmacology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Reaction Time
  • Serotonin / metabolism
  • Tryptophan / pharmacology*


  • Serotonin
  • Ethanol
  • Tryptophan