stress inoculation

Image by US Army Korea – IMCOM via Flickr

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.

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2 thoughts on “stress inoculation”

  1. This makes sense since many people use this same line of logic to explain the ‘desensitization’ of the media generation to violence because of bombardment of violence in movies, video games and television.

    There was a great PBS special about Brain Fitness that talked about how the brain adapts and physically restructures its inner workings based on the lifestyle that people lead. The example was how the ‘touch’ portion of the brain will actually ‘learn’ to devote a larger portion of that section to the fingers if a person becomes blind and has to use their fingers to read Braille writing.

    This seems in line with that.

    I wonder if studying backwards into the history of current spec-ops types would show a natural level or a developed level of NPY.

  2. Great site this and I am really pleased to see you have what I am actually looking for here and this this post is exactly what I am interested in. I shall be pleased to become a regular visitor 🙂

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