Acute tryptophan depletion in healthy males attenuates phasic cardiac slowing but does not affect electro-cortical response to negative feedback
Rationale: Recent studies have shown that serotonin might be involved in performance monitoring, although the results have been inconclusive. Inconsistent results might be related to the type of pharmacological manipulation and the used behavioral and physiological measures. Objectives: The present study aimed at further specifying the role of serotonin in performance monitoring. Materials and methods: The effect of serotonin on performance monitoring was studied by using acute tryptophan depletion (ATD), a well-known method to transiently lower central serotonin levels. Twenty healthy male volunteers performed a time-estimation task and their event-related brain potential (ERP), behavioral, and cardiac responses to feedback stimuli were measured. Furthermore, subjective mood and amino-acid levels were determined. Results: As expected, ATD did not affect mood and lowered tryptophan levels. ATD attenuated cardiac slowing to negative feedback but did not affect responses to positive feedback, ERPs, and performance measures. Conclusions: The data point in the direction of a dissociation between cardiac and electro-cortical responses. Cardiac responses appear to be more sensitive to changes in serotonin metabolism and appear to reflect different aspects of the feedback stimulus. The phasic cardiac response appears to be an important measure that provides additional information about the impact of feedback stimuli and serotonergic functioning.