A number of different stressors can be employed to elicit both physiological and psychological stress responses. For example, prolonged multi-tasking in a monitored environment increases physiological stress responses and self-ratings of anxiety and reduces ratings of calmness. Social stressors, such as the Trier Social Stress Test, can be utilised to elicit an even greater response. Currently in development,Â the use of virtual reality headgear will allow the delivery of stress provoking scenarios in a safe environment.Â
Physiological responses to stress can be measured in a number of different ways; heart rate and blood pressure can be easily monitored throughout testing in the lab, and saliva samples taken at various time points during test sessions or over the course of an intervention period can be analysed for hormonal (e.g. cortisol) and immunological (e.g. salivary Immunoglobin A) stress responses.
We have often employed the Purple Framework (Purple Solutions Research Ltd) to asses the impact of herbal and nutritional preparations on both psychological and physiological measures in response to stressful tasks. One advantage of this mild multi-tasking stressor is that it can be utilised on multiple occasions, allowing the same participant to be assessed following more than one treatment. Stress levels can be further manipulated by incorporating elements of social evaluation e.g. experimenter monitoring, web camera, video recorder. Using this and other tools we have been able to demonstrate how a wide variety of interventions can beneficially mediate stress responses.
Brain, Performance and Nutrition Research Centre
Faculty of Health and Life Sciences
4th Floor, Northumberland Building
Newcastle upon Tyne