[Skip to Navigation]
April 1984

Serotonergic Function in Depression: Prolactin Response to Intravenous Tryptophan in Depressed Patients and Healthy Subjects

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Psychiatry, Yale University School of Medicine and the Connecticut Mental Health Center, New Haven. Dr Sternberg is now at Falkirk Hospital, Central Valley, NY.

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1984;41(4):398-402. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1984.01790150088012

• There is considerable evidence that serotonergic function may be reduced in the brains of depressed patients. Serotonin is an effective stimulant of prolactin release, and intravenous (IV) tryptophan (the amino acid precursor of serotonin), when administered to healthy subjects, produces a reliable and robust increase in serum prolactin level. To evaluate serotonergic function in depressed patients, we gave 25 patients and 19 age- and sex-matched controls tryptophan, 7 g IV. There was a marked blunting of the maximal prolactin response to the tryptophan in both the male and female patients. The patient control differences could not be accounted for on the basis of age, sex, or time without medications. The data provide strong support for a possible serotonergic abnormality in depression.

Add or change institution