The effect of acute tyrosine phenylalanine depletion on emotion-based decision-making in healthy adults

Suzanne Vrshek-Schallhorn, Dustin Wahlstrom, Tonya White, Monica Luciana

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Despite interest in dopamine's role in emotion-based decision-making, few reports of the effects of dopamine manipulations are available in this area in humans. This study investigates dopamine's role in emotion-based decision-making through a common measure of this construct, the Iowa Gambling Task (IGT), using Acute Tyrosine Phenylalanine Depletion (ATPD). In a between-subjects design, 40 healthy adults were randomized to receive either an ATPD beverage or a balanced amino acid beverage (a control) prior to completing the IGT, as well as pre- and post-manipulation blood draws for the neurohormone prolactin. Together with conventional IGT performance metrics, choice selections and response latencies were examined separately for good and bad choices before and after several key punishment events. Changes in response latencies were also used to predict total task performance. Prolactin levels increased significantly in the ATPD group but not in the control group. However, no significant group differences in performance metrics were detected, nor were there sex differences in outcome measures. However, the balanced group's bad deck latencies speeded up across the task, while the ATPD group's latencies remained adaptively hesitant. Additionally, modulation of latencies to the bad decks predicted total score for the ATPD group only. One interpretation is that ATPD subtly attenuated reward salience and altered the approach by which individuals achieved successful performance, without resulting in frank group differences in task performance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)51-57
Number of pages7
JournalPharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior
StatePublished - Apr 2013

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by a McKnight Land -Grant Professorship to ML, by a University of Minnesota Graduate School Fellowship and a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship to SVS. These funding sources had no involvement in the study design; collection, analysis, and interpretation of data; in the writing of the report; or in the decision to submit the article for publication.


  • Acute tyrosine phenylalanine depletion
  • Decision making
  • Dopamine
  • Healthy adults
  • Iowa Gambling Task


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