The central fatigue hypothesis describes a possible link between the neurotransmitter, 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT), plasma tryptophan and branched chain amino acids concentration and exercise-induced fatigue. Recent investigations studied 5-HT receptors and neuroendocrine "challenge” tests, using prolactin release as an indirect measure of 5-HT activity. The present study combined the original hypothesis about the role of amino acids in increasing brain 5-HT with a neuroendocrine challenge test on elite athletes diagnosed with unexplained, underperformance syndrome (UUPS). There was an apparent increased sensitivity of 5-HT receptors in athletes with UUPS compared with fit, well-trained controls, as measured via increased prolactin release following a bolus dose of m-chlorophenylpiperazine, a 5-HT agonist. No changes were observed in plasma amino acid concentrations in either group. There is evidence that well-trained athletes have a reduced sensitivity of 5-HT receptors. The present study suggests that this adaptation may be lost in athletes with UUPS: this might explain some of their observed symptoms.
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