Identifying blood biomarkers and physiological processes that distinguish humans with superior performance under psychological stress.
Cooksey, Amanda M.
Burgess, Shane C.
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BACKGROUND: Attrition of students from aviation training is a serious financial and operational concern for the U.S. Navy. Each late stage navy aviator training failure costs the taxpayer over $1,000,000 and ultimately results in decreased operational readiness of the fleet. Currently, potential aviators are selected based on the Aviation Selection Test Battery (ASTB), which is a series of multiple-choice tests that evaluate basic and aviation-related knowledge and ability. However, the ASTB does not evaluate a person's response to stress. This is important because operating sophisticated aircraft demands exceptional performance and causes high psychological stress. Some people are more resistant to this type of stress, and consequently better able to cope with the demands of naval aviation, than others. METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: Although many psychological studies have examined psychological stress resistance none have taken advantage of the human genome sequence. Here we use high-throughput -omic biology methods and a novel statistical data normalization method to identify plasma proteins associated with human performance under psychological stress. We identified proteins involved in four basic physiological processes: innate immunity, cardiac function, coagulation and plasma lipid physiology. CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE: The proteins identified here further elucidate the physiological response to psychological stress and suggest a hypothesis that stress-susceptible pilots may be more prone to shock. This work also provides potential biomarkers for screening humans for capability of superior performance under stress.