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Autonomic and cortical response of soldiers in different combat scenarios
  1. José Francisco Tornero Aguilera1,
  2. V Fernandez Elias2 and
  3. V J Clemente-Suárez2,3
  1. 1 Biomedical Sciences, Universidad Europea de Madrid, Madrid, Spain
  2. 2 Universidad Europea de Madrid. Faculty of Sport Sciences, Madrid, Spain
  3. 3 Grupo de Investigación en Cultura, Educación y Sociedad, Universidad de la Costa, Barranquilla, Colombia
  1. Correspondence to Mr V J Clemente-Suárez, Faculty of Sport Sciences, Tajo street, s/n, 28670 Villaviciosa de Odón, Madrid, Spain; vctxente{at}


Introduction The study of chronic and acute responses when exposed to extreme, aggressive and stressful environments, such as in combat environments, is becoming increasingly popular as such information leads to better optimisation of soldiers’ physical and psychological performance, as well as mission effectiveness and efficiency. Due to internal complexity, uncertainty and variability of real combat scenarios, a specific approach to all possible types of military combat scenarios is necessary.

Methods Modifications in the autonomic modulation and cortical arousal before and after asymmetrical, symmetrical and close quarter combat simulations were analysed in 31 male professional veteran soldiers (age: 34.5±4.2 years) with between seven and 18 years of experience in their respective units, as well as experience in international missions in current conflict areas such as Lebanon, Afghanistan, Bosnia, Kosovo and Iraq.

Results The three combat situations produced a non-significant decrease in cortical arousal after combat simulations, presenting a trivial effect size in symmetrical and close quarter combat situations and a small effect size in asymmetrical situations. HR increased significantly in the three combat situations, and close quarter combat produced the highest sympathetic modulation of the three situations analysed.

Conclusion Symmetrical, asymmetrical and close quarter combat situations produced an increase in sympathetic modulation, being highest in the close quarter combat situation, where actions are performed at a close distance and in closed spaces.

  • combat
  • stress
  • heart rate variability
  • heart rate
  • soldier

Data availability statement

All data relevant to the study are included in the article or uploaded as supplementary information.

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Data availability statement

All data relevant to the study are included in the article or uploaded as supplementary information.

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  • Contributors All authors equally contributed to this research.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.