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Study Compares Stress Levels In Soldiers

February 16, 2009

A U.S. researcher said on Sunday that soldiers who perform best under extreme stress have higher levels of chemicals that dampen the fear response, Reuters reported.

Many say the finding could lead to new drugs or training strategies to help others cope better with intense combat situations.

Deane Aikins of Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut said that certain individuals just don’t get as stressed as others.

“Their stress hormones are actually lower,” she told reporters at the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Chicago.

The research at Yale University involved the study of stress hormone levels in soldiers undergoing survival training.

Aikins and colleagues observe soldiers under a series of war-simulated stress tests including mock prisoner of war experiences.

After blood tests, those soldiers who fared best under extreme stress had lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol and higher levels of neuropeptide y, a chemical that dampens the body’s stress response.

“All of the recovery hormone systems, all of the systems that turn it down, really kick in for these resilient individuals,” Aikins said.

The researchers now hope to find out how to help soldiers that aren’t as cool under stress.

Aikins said his team is now looking into whether giving other soldiers a dose of this stress-dampening neuropeptide might help people fare better in combat situations.

Mental training exercises such as meditation also might help improve the performance of soldiers under stress, researchers added.

Image Courtesy US Army

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