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Life Sci. 2005 Jul 22;77(10):1166-79. Epub 2005 Apr 26.

The effect of repeated acute mental stress on habituation and recovery responses in hemoconcentration and blood cells in healthy men.

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Institute for Behavioral Sciences, Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich, Switzerland.


Acute mental stress elicits hemoconcentration and polycytosis. We investigated whether haematological response to repeated acute mental stress would habituate and be sustained 45 min and 105 min after stress. Twenty-four men underwent a 13-min stressor three times, one week apart; hematological variables were measured at week one and three. Hematocrit, hemoglobin, leukocytes, lymphocytes, erythrocytes, and thrombocytes all increased from rest to immediately post-stress (p's<.001). After 105 min of recovery, leukocytes and platelets both were higher, and hematocrit, hemoglobin, lymphocytes, and erythrocytes were all lower than at rest (p's<.001 to <.05). At all time points, hematocrit (p=.005) and erythrocytes (p=.006) were lower at week three than at week one. In contrast to an attenuation in systolic blood pressure increase from rest to immediately post-stress (p<.001), and in cortisol recovery from immediately post-stress to 45 min post-stress (p<.001), the magnitude of change in hemoconcentration and cell counts in stress and recovery experienced no habituation. Adjustment for stress-induced plasma volume shift altered findings: Elevated leukocytes post-stress persisted at 105 min (p<.001); any changes in lymphocytes became insignificant; erythrocytes decreased from rest to post-stress (p<.001) to increase again during recovery (p's<.05); platelets increased linearly between rest and 105 min of recovery (p=.005). We conclude that the magnitude of changes in hemoconcentration and blood cells during acute mental stress and recovery failed to habituate to stress repeats and, in part, sustained up to 105 min. Plasma volume shift accompanying stress affects the time course of stress polycytosis.

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