Year: 2013 Source: Human Psychopharmacology.(2013).28(1):61-71. DOI: 10.1002/hup.2283 SIEC No: 20130433

Objective: Non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI) is associated with impaired emotion regulation and impulsivity. Low serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine) function is associated with NSSI, impaired emotion regulation and impulsivity. We investigated the effects of experimentally lowered 5-hydroxytryptamine activity, via acute tryptophan depletion (ATD), on impulsive action, reflection impulsivity and mood in female adolescents engaging in NSSI. Methods: Thirty-two female adolescents engaging in NSSI participated in a parallel group ATD study. Following ATD, impulsive action was assessed using the Continuous Performance Test, Identical Pairs Version. Reflection impulsivity was assessed using the Matching Familiar Figures Test. Mood-lowering was examined using the Profile of Mood States. Results: Following ATD, the participants showed an impulsive response style (as reflected in their low ‰) and increased attentional capacity (as reflected in their elevated d’). ATD did not affect reflection impulsivity or mood. Conclusions: Acute tryptophan depletion caused an impulsive response style and increased attentional capacity. Importantly, the findings suggest that low serotonin function is a vulnerability among female adolescents for engaging in NSSI when in emotional distress.