Speaker: Hamilton, K. (University of Maryland)
Date: 22 March 2019
SMA hosted a speaker session presented by Dr. Kristen Hamilton (University of Maryland) as a part of its SMA General Speaker Series. Dr. Hamilton presented her team’s research, which was focused on harnessing the beneficial effects of acute stress response inhibition. She explained that the human body’s stress response is adaptive, and its response inhibition is critical for survival due to its ability to enable rapid suppression of actions in changing environments. She then defined and emphasized the importance of stress and acute stress response. Dr. Hamilton also explained how stress impacts executive functions, how the beneficial effects of stress depend on physiological stress-reactivity, and how the human body’s stress response adapts when presented with various scenarios (“fight or flight”). She also discussed the causes of low stress-reactivity, as well as the risks caused by it. Dr. Hamilton then explained the purpose of her team’s preliminary research, as well as its study design and preliminary results. The team’s research aimed to replicate the beneficial effects of acute stress on response inhibition using a “sensitive, within-subjects design” in order to determine whether degree of cortisol stress-reactivity is associated with stress-related changes in response inhibition. To conclude, Dr. Hamilton emphasized the value of understanding the integration of stress, reactivity, and inhibition within a military context and proposed a series of follow-on studies that would “establish the relevance of the integration of stress, reactivity, and inhibition to behavioral control and success during military operations and lay the groundwork for interventions,” such as pharmacology, technology, and training.