A reader of my blog recommended the following Newsweek article titled Ultimate Stress Test: Special Forces Training. The article ultimately states that higher levels of a neuropeptide called NPY in spec-ops soldiers brains allows them to think more clearly under stress as compared to soldiers with lower levels of NPY. Exactly how these soldiers attain these higher levels of NPY is not clearly explained, but I think that this excerpt from the article shows a likely cause:
In a laboratory, it’s extremely difficult to study why some people are better at bouncing back than others because it’s so hard to simulate the real stresses and strains of life. Scientists can show people scary pictures or movies to trigger their reactions and measure how they recover, but it’s hardly the same as a mugger in an alley or a grizzly bear on a hiking trail. Dr. Andy Morgan of Yale Medical School set out to find a real-world laboratory where he could watch people under incredible stress in reasonably controlled conditions.
He ended up in southeastern North Carolina at Fort Bragg, home of the Army’s elite Airborne and Special Forces. This is where the Army’s renowned survival school is located. It’s also where they believe in something called stress inoculation. Like vaccines, a small challenge or dose of a virus in your system prepares and defends you against a bigger challenge. In other words, they expose you to pressure and suffering in training so you’ll build up your immunity. It’s a kind of classic psychological conditioning: the more shocks to your system, the more you’re able to withstand.
I believe that the implications regarding training and lifestyle choices are fairly clear and reinforce may of the opinions already posted here in previous articles.