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Stress. 2013 Jul;16(4):377-83. doi: 10.3109/10253890.2013.767326. Epub 2013 Feb 25.

Resting vagal control and resilience as predictors of cardiovascular allostasis in peacekeepers.

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Departamento de Ciências Biológicas, Universidade Federal de Ouro Preto, Ouro Preto, MG, Brazil.


The body's adaptive reaction to a stressful event, an allostatic response, involves vigorous physiological engagement with and efficient recovery from stress. Our aim was to investigate the influence of individual predispositions on cardiac responses to and recovery from a standardized psychosocial stress task (Trier Social Stress Task) in peacekeepers. We hypothesized that those individuals with higher trait resilience and those with higher resting vagal control would be more likely to present an allostatic response: a vigorous cardiac response to stress (i.e., reduction in interbeat intervals and heart rate variability (HRV)) coupled with a significant cardiac recovery in the aftermath. Fifty male military personnel with a mean age of 25.4 years (SD ± 5.99) were evaluated after returning from a peacekeeping mission. Electrocardiogram recordings were made throughout the experimental session, which consisted five conditions: basal, speech preparation, speech delivery, arithmetic task, and recovery. Mean interbeat intervals and HRV were calculated for each condition. An Ego-Resilience Scale and resting vagal control assessed individual predispositions. Stress tasks reduced interbeat intervals (tachycardia) and HRV in comparison with basal, with return to basal in the aftermath (p < 0.001, for all comparisons). Resilience and resting vagal control correlated positively with cardiac parameters for both stress reactivity and recovery (r ≥ 0.29; p < 0.05). In conclusion, peacekeepers showing higher trait resilience and those with higher resting vagal control presented a more adaptive allostatic reaction characterized by vigorous cardiac response to stress (i.e., tachycardia and vagal withdrawal) and efficient cardiac recovery after stress cessation.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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