This study tests the hypothesis that administration of an oral amino acid load mimicking hemoglobin in patients with cirrhosis of the liver causes deterioration in neuropsychological function and a reduction in regional cerebral perfusion. Eight overnight fasted, metabolically stable cirrhotic patients with no evidence of overt hepatic encephalopathy were studied prior to and 4 h after simulating an upper gastrointestinal bleed by oral administration of 75 g of a solution mimicking the amino acid composition of hemoglobin. Neuropsychological function was measured using a test battery. Peripheral venous blood was collected for the measurement of ammonia and amino acid concentrations. Regional cerebral perfusion was measured using a head SPECT scanner following intravenous administration of technetium-99m hexamethyl propylamineoxime. The amino acid solution resulted in significant deterioration in the immediate and delayed story recall tests. Ammonia concentration increased from a median of 87 (range 67-94) micromol/L to 105 (98-112) micromol/L at 4 h after the simulated bleed (p