Author Topic: Adrenaline  (Read 13459 times)


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« on: August 29, 2009, 08:11:37 AM »
Understanding the adrenal state and how best to operate in it is a vital matter, thus this thread:


Mailbag: Time distortion, excited delirium, and Tasers

Our readers write:

1. Time speeds up sometimes, slows others. How come?

During my civilian experiences and work as a medic, I have often had to restrain people, end fights, use passive restraint and very mild self-defense. When in these situations, or some intense medical/trauma scenes, time sped up and became choppy, leaving me with poor perception during and poor recollection after the events.

But in other seemingly similar cases, time would see to slow down and I could move and respond much faster than normal, with total clarity and both physical and mental rapidity beyond my normal abilities.

Can you explain why some severe stresses provoke a "tunnel vision" and choppy experience, while other seem to bend time to make it easier to help? And how do you transform the former into the latter?

Jesse Beckow
President/lead medic
Advanced Rescue Consulting
Thornhill (ON) Canada

Dr. Bill Lewinski, executive director of the Force Science Research Center, responds:

First understand that the human brain does not have a built-in clock that constantly measures time objectively. Instead, the brain uses itself, its experience, and to what and how it's paying attention, as a reference point. So when the more rational, contemplative part of the brain is hijacked in stressful situations by the primitive, emotion-based amygdala or "crisis center", widely differing impressions of time tend to register.

Broadly speaking, when you're feeling suddenly overwhelmed in a stressful situation, with too much to comprehend and accomplish in the time-frame available, you're likely to perceive time speeding up. But in a similar situation, if you are sharply focused and drawing on a deep well of training to respond, time may appear to slow down, because your brain has streamlined the situation and is operating efficiently in survival mode. Because your sense of competence, confidence, emotion, and attention can vary among quite similar situations, your perception of time can vary as well.

Research conducted by Drs. Audrey Honig and J. Roland and earlier work by Dr. Alexis Artwohl inform us that some 41% to 62% of officers who survive shootings report having experienced a "slow-motion" effect in which they felt sufficient time to respond effectively. Only a minority of survivors (17% to 20%) seemed to experience time speeding up.

Either way, we need to remember that officers who've been in stressful events should not be expected to give accurate estimates regarding duration. They may try to do so in response to investigators' questions, but they're only guessing at best.

Any officer who is attempting to accurately note time while in the midst of a highly stressful, rapidly unfolding, life-threatening situation might be better off paying attention to other more important matters.


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Re: Adrenaline
« Reply #1 on: August 29, 2009, 09:08:21 AM »

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Tachypsychia is a neurological condition that alters the perception of time, usually induced by physical exertion, drug use, or a traumatic event. It is sometimes incorrectly referred to by martial arts instructors and self defense experts as the Tachy Psyche effect. For someone affected by tachypsychia, time perceived by the individual either lengthens, making events appear to slow down, or contracts, objects appearing as moving in a speeding blur. It is believed that tachypsychia is induced by a combination of high levels of dopamine and norepinephrine, usually during periods of great physical stress and/or in violent confrontation.

Contents [hide]
1 Physical Responses
1.1 Adrenaline Response
1.2 Psychological Response
2 References

[edit] Physical Responses
Also called the "fight or flight" response of the body to an event our mind considers life threatening, tachypsychia is believed to include numerous physical changes.

[edit] Adrenaline Response
Upon being stimulated by fear or anger, the Adrenal medulla may automatically produce the hormone epinephrine (aka adrenaline) directly into the blood stream. This can have various effects on various bodily systems, including:

Increased heart rate and blood pressure. It is average for a person's pulse to raise to between 200 and 300 beats per minute (bpm). Increased heart rate (above 250 bpm) can cause fainting, and the body may constrict itself into a fetal position in preparation for a coma.
Dilation of the bronchial passages, permitting higher absorption of oxygen.
Dilated pupils to allow more light to enter, and visual exclusion--tunnel vision--occurs, allowing greater focus but resulting in the loss of peripheral vision.
Release of glucose into the bloodstream, generating extra energy by raising the blood sugar level.
It is common for an individual to experience auditory exclusion or enhancement. It is also common for individuals to experience an increased pain tolerance, loss of color vision, short term memory loss, decreased fine motor skills, decreased communication skills, decreased coordination.

[edit] Psychological Response
The most common experience during tachypsychia is the feeling that time has either increased or slowed down, brought on by the increased brain activity cause by epinephrine, or the severe decrease in brain activity caused by the "catecholamine washout" occurring after the event.

It is common for an individual experiencing tachypsychia to have serious misinterpretations of their surrounding during the events, through a combination of their altered perception of time, as well as transient partial color blindness and tunnel vision. After the irregularly high levels of adrenaline consumed during sympathetic nervous system activation, an individual may display signs and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, and it is common for the person to display extreme emotional lability and fatigue, regardless of their actual physical exertion.

It is possible to manage the "adrenaline dump" still occurring after the event, and it is common for soldiers and martial artists to use tachypsychia in order to increase their performance during stressful situations.


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« Reply #2 on: August 30, 2009, 06:24:57 PM »
I. Force Science finds common theme in peak performances across variety of force encounters; details soon

"Startling revelations" about police performance in force encounters will be revealed shortly by representatives of the Force Science Research Center at a gathering of cognitive and behavioral scientists from throughout the world in Rome, Italy.

The findings are expected to have "profound implications" for future law enforcement training, according to FSRC's executive director, Dr. Bill Lewinski.

Addressing the 4th International Conference on Spatial Cognition Sept. 14-19 at Europe's largest university, La Sapienza of Rome, Lewinski and Dr. Joan Vickers will reveal results of their unique research into officers' scan patterns and attentional focus before and during life-threatening confrontations.

Vickers, an internationally acclaimed authority on "the quiet eye" and other aspects of the relationship between vision and peak performance, is the founder of the Neuro-motor Psychology Laboratory at Canada's University of Calgary and a faculty member for the popular Force Science certification course for law enforcement.

Nearly a year ago, as a part of broad-based research into use of force, she and Lewinski conducted complex research under FSRC auspices in Belfast, Ireland, that for the first time meticulously and extensively tracked eye movements of police officers during the build-up and eruption of deadly force conflicts.

Volunteers--some of them officers with only basic firearms training and little experience and others who were members of elite, highly seasoned tactical teams--were outfitted with small, sophisticated corneal reflection "eye-tracker" that allowed researchers to record where their eyes were focused at each phase of the action.

One at a time, the officers, armed with training guns, then were introduced to a live-action scenario and told to react as they thought appropriate. The role-play involved the officers witnessing a citizen profanely confronting a government employee in a dispute about a passport. As the citizen's anger escalated, he pulled a pistol or a cell phone from his waistband, spun around, and fired (or appeared to fire) at the officer being tested.

Background details of the investigation and its goals were reported in Force Science News Transmission #104 sent 11/7/08 [Click here to read it now]. But the results were not then known.

In the months since the experiments, Vickers and her staff have been carefully analyzing the eye-tracker data. They now know precisely what each officer looked at, in what order, and for how long as he or she experienced the scenario, made decisions regarding the proper force responses, and then delivered deadly force or chose not to engage.

"Their focus of attention, body positioning, judgment, speed, and shooting accuracy have all been evaluated," Lewinski says. "And most important, from the massive amount of data gathered, we now have identified the critical differences in scan patterns between 'elite' and 'ordinary' officers and can report which patterns seem to correlate most closely with good judgment, speed, and accuracy--in short, with successful performance.

"Force Science has now measured successful behavioral elements across a variety of high-stress performance situations, from high-speed pursuits to deadly force encounters, and a common theme among great performances has clearly emerged.

"Some of the findings are startling revelations, and the implications for training are going to be profound. Among other things, this information will help officers learn to better predict suspect actions so they have a greater advantage in reacting and will help trainers take officers to their highest personal level of performance in crisis situations. We have learned a great deal from this research about human performance that will significantly impact subject control and officer survival."

Precisely what has been learned and what it means to you will be reported in Force Science News after the conference in Rome.

Meanwhile, Lewinski again expressed his gratitude to the Police Federation of England and Wales, which helped fund this vital research.

II. New project seeks "first reliable tool" for measuring performance in OISs

A new research project getting underway at Washington State University in Spokane aims to develop a means to "dramatically improve the ability to measure police officer performance in deadly force encounters, and thus evaluate the impact of management and training practices."

The result "has the potential to help save lives" as well as to "increase government efficiency," according to an abstract describing the project.

The study is headed by Dr. Bryan Vila, a CJ professor at WSU, director of the Critical Job Task Simulation Lab there, author of the insightful book on police fatigue, Tired Cops, and a LEO and trainer for 17 years.

Currently, says Vila, there's "a critical lack of scientific evidence" about whether or to what extent "deadly force management, accountability, and training practices actually have an impact" on how officers perform in lethal confrontations and "whether alternative approaches would be more effective."

Vila intends to create what he calls a Deadly Force Scenario Performance Metric, a "measurement scale" for evaluating life-threatening encounters.

When refined, he says, this tool will make it possible to consistently grade police shootings according to their complexity and "difficulty" and to compare officer performance across multiple departments and situations.

The project was launched recently with a 2-day meeting of a focus group in Spokane, facilitated by Vila. Some 20 experts with diverse perspectives on "deadly force judgment, decision-making, and performance" from across the country attended--veteran trainers, academics, command and supervisory personnel, police association leaders, researchers, and veteran street officers regarded as elite performers by their peers. Among the participants was Dr. Bill Lewinski of the Force Science Research Center at Minnesota State University-Mankato.

The group brainstormed extensively on 3 subjects, Vila says:

1. What objective elements tend to add to the complexity or difficulty of a deadly force encounter, making it harder for an involved officer to bring about an "optimum outcome" (i.e., the officer accurately identifies a threat, and neutralizes it lawfully, while minimizing harm to innocent bystanders and officers);
2. What skills, actions, or decisions by an involved officer tend to lead to an optimum outcome;

3. What relative weight, on a scale of 1-11, should be assigned to these various factors in terms of overall importance.

A sophisticated technique known as "concept mapping" was used to filter the group's comments and produce a consensus of core ideas.

"Such things as light-level, number of suspects, the distance between officer and subject, and the types of weapons involved were agreed upon in the first category," Vila told Force Science News. "The second included use of cover, command presence, the ability to clear a malfunction rapidly, and clear communications.

"With the collective experience and expertise of the people in the room, I'm confident we captured the major issues that need to be considered." To be certain, however, the opinions of deadly force instructors from across the US will be sampled through an online survey in the near future.

From all the data, Vila and his colleagues hope to compile a list of about 100 items that can be the basis for measuring a confrontation's difficulty and an officer's performance. That template will then be pilot-tested with officer volunteers confronting a variety of deadly force situations in simulator exercises and ultimately be refined into a valid checklist in printed form.

The eventual goal, Vila explains, is not so much to rate any individual officer's performance but from aggregate numbers to determine a baseline, develop performance standards, and see how scores might be affected for better or worse by changes in training and policies and by other pertinent variables such as officer fatigue, multi-tasking, duty hours, and so on.

Having reliable measurements, Vila says, "is vital for evaluating organizational performance and developing effective deadly force training.

"People have strong opinions on the best way to teach rules of engagement. But in order to test these opinions scientifically, there has to be a means of measuring them in a context of scenario difficulty and officer performance. What we hope to produce for the first time is that measurement tool--something more precise, objective, and reliable than anything currently available for use by researchers, trainers, and police managers."

Beyond that, he speculates that a proven scale for measuring a confrontation's difficulty could also have implications in court. "Applied to a case at issue, it could help explain the challenges an officer faced in making reasonable decisions in the midst of dynamic, rapidly unfolding, ambiguous circumstances," he says.

Vila hopes to have an elements list in draft form for testing by the end of this year, followed by at least another year of pilot experiments. The research is being funded by a grant from the National Institute of Justice.

 Here is something a good friend of mine with the nomme du internet of "Belisarius" wrote and I post here with permission:
Cool article. I think that the term "awareness" is too vague for our purposes and should generally be replaced with "selective attention". FSRC is a cutting-edge group. Use of common terminology will make for much easier transitions when we cross disciplines---specialists in other fields will immediately know what we are talking about.

Karl, I like to use a "flashlight" model of selective attention; the literature often uses the basically identical "searchlight" analogy, but tactical/SD people seem to respond better to flashlights for some reason.

If you can imagine the world as being a gigantic, pitch-black aircraft hangar of a room, selective attention would be the beam of the flashlight. The important thing to note here is that our attentional resources are quite limited and thus have to be used carefully. The light can only illuminate part of the room at one time.

-Before you can use the light, it needs to have batteries in it. This would be the equivalent of being conscious and generally at full capacity (i.e., no chemically-induced cognitive fog, extreme fatigue, etc). This could be referred to as "basic physiological responsiveness."

-The light may have batteries, but it needs to be turned on. Turning the light on means moving from an internal narrative orientation (reflecting on the past, building mental models of the future) that uses up attentional capacity to an external orientation that is engaged with the present environment.

-Last, the light's beam needs to be pointed in the right direction. "Right direction" means different things at different times---it might mean spotting your future wife in a crowd, it might mean an orientation towards potential hazards in the environment as they come up. Generally speaking, of course, hazards take priority. If we don't have a "right direction" at the moment, we need to be scanning. There is a lot of evidence that people going into an internal narrative mode tend to look straight down at the ground or up at the sky and to fix their head movements in place; just keeping the head up and vision level and moving the head slowly, like a turret---as if trying to have a slow 180-degree panorama while moving forward through the world---makes it harder to turn inwards and block out environmental information. Try it for yourself and see---catch yourself when you are turning inwards and see what your head and eyes are doing. By moving the head and keeping the foveal cone of vision engaged with the world without tasking it specifically, attentional capacity is being kept as free as possible---think of it as working memory that you want to keep accessible for future tasks and that's a pretty good analogy of what is really going on.

Training tends to take on a role when the scan has found something interesting. As Isaac Asimov wrote, "The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds the most discoveries, is not "Eureka!" ("I found it!"), but "Hmm, that's funny..." So at that point you may commit SA resources to the particular subject of interest. A trained response would invoke "procedural memory," the ancient partner of selective attention.

To recap: the flashlight model of SA involves A) basic physiological responsiveness; B) a real-time, external orientation towards the world; C) in the absence of interesting data, deliberate scanning behaviors that help to prevent withdrawal into an internal narrative; and D) when something interesting does show up, free working memory---selective attention---can be directed in an efficient and focused way. The next stage involves decision-making and trained behavior.

I have heard it suggested that athletes and/or martial artists naturally possess the equivalent of better SA. This is not entirely true. An athlete driving to a match or game may actually be consumed with internal representations related to future performance and may have an accident because he is engaged in visualization/Mental Skills Training that is appropriate to the sport, but not for the transit to the sporting event. The appropriate time for MST is in a safe, isolated environment.
« Last Edit: August 30, 2009, 06:28:20 PM by Crafty_Dog »