Monitoring attention skills and psychophysiological correlates in a sample of Special Forces operators: a pilot study

Davide Perego, P Nardone, Davide Crivelli, Michela Balconi

Risultato della ricerca: Contributo in rivistaContributo a convegnopeer review


Attention is one of the most complex and pervasive cognitive function. Informationselection, focusing and concentration are indeed crucial skills that underlie other cognitive functions and continuously mediate the relationship between an individual and the environment. According to Posner and Petersen model, attention components are supported by three main neural subsystems: the alerting network, which grounds on the noradrenergic activity of brainstem arousal systems along with right hemisphere structures mediating sustained vigilance; the orienting network, involved in directing attention focus and including posterior parietal structures, superior colliculus and pulvinar; and an executive network, mediating conscious control and awareness and including medial prefrontal and cingulate cortices. The integrated activity of such systems regulates behavioural and physiological responses to the environment and can be trained. The fine tuning of aforementioned attention skills and networks becomes particularly critical for people involved in cognitively and physically stressful or high-risk activities, such as military and security operators, as critical is the evaluation of their functioning. While selective and more complex attention skills may be easily assessed by well-known response times tests including different stimuli and more or less effortful tasks, such practice is not part of standard monitoring examinations. The present study, then, aims at investigating the potential of such measures for the assessment of psychophysical performance in military operators. Further, it aims at investigating the relationship between simple attention measures and psychophysiological alertness/stress responses during and outside tactical activities so to investigate their predictive value. 69 operators took part in an initial evaluation step, which included a series of standardized Response Times (RT) computerized tests tapping on focused and spatial attention skills and on inhibition and response control abilities. Preliminary findings interestingly highlighted that military participants did not present the expectable decline of attention performances with age, but presented instead significant negative correlations between age and attention-related RT, i.e. older operators showed better performances. In addition, a first series of single-case analyses highlighted positive associations between RT and specific subcomponents of heart rate variability indices, hinting at a link to sympathetic/parasympathetic regulation. We suggest that those findings may be accounted for by the role of continuous psychophysical training.
Lingua originaleEnglish
pagine (da-a)135-136
Numero di pagine2
RivistaNeuropsychological Trends
Stato di pubblicazionePubblicato - 2015
EventoXXIII Congresso Nazionale della Società Italiana di Psicofisiologia - SIPF - Lucca
Durata: 19 nov 201521 nov 2015


  • Psychophysiology
  • Special Forces


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