Combined physical and psychological stress events have been associated with exacerbated endocrine responses and increased alterations in immune cell trafficking when compared to exercise stress alone. Military training programs are rigorous in nature and often purposefully delivered in environments combining high levels of both physical and mental stress. The objective of this study was to assess physiological and cognitive changes following U.S. Marine Corps Martial Arts training. Seven active-duty, male Marines were observed during a typical Marine Corps Martial Arts training session. Immune parameters, including immunomodulatory cytokines, and hormone concentrations were determined from blood samples obtained at baseline, immediately post training (IP) and at 15 min intervals post-training to 1 h (R15, R30, R45, R60). Assessments of cognitive moral functioning (moral judgment and intent) were recorded at intervals during recovery. There were significant fluctuations in immunoendocrine parameters. Peak endocrine measures were observed within the IP-R15 time interval. Distributions of circulating immune cells were significantly altered with neutrophils and all lymphocyte subsets elevated at IP. IFN-γ and IL-17a exhibited small, non-significant, parallel increases over the recovery period. Moral functioning was informed by different social identities during the recovery resulting in changes in moral decision-making. These data demonstrate that the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program induces significant alterations in lymphocyte and leukocyte distributions, but does not shift the balance of Th1/Th2 cytokines or induce a systemic inflammatory response. The program does, however, induce alterations in moral decision-making ability associated with the observed endocrine responses, even suggesting a potential interaction between one's social identities and endocrine responses upon moral decision-making.
Siedlik, J. A., Deckert, J. A., Clopton, A. W., Gigliotti, N., Chan, M. A., Benedict, S. H., … Vardiman, J. P. (2016). Immunoendocrine alterations following Marine Corps Martial Arts training are associated with changes in moral cognitive processes. Physiology and Behavior, 154, 76–82. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.physbeh.2015.11.011