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Although much work has been conducted to quantify the long-term physiological effects of psychological stress, measures of short-term, low-level stress have been more elusive. This study assessed the effect of exposure of volunteers to a mild, brief, psychologically stressful event, on the functional ability of leukocytes in whole blood to respond to phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate (PMA) in vitro. Volunteers operated a car electric window and adjusted it to 4 pre-determined positions. Between each operation the mechanism's polarity was covertly altered (group B) or remained unaltered (group A). For each treatment group 10 different subjects provided capillary blood samples pre- and post-stressor. Using a chemiluminescent technique termed leukocyte coping capacity, the ability of leukocytes to produce reactive oxygen species (ROS) in vitro was assessed. ROS release differed significantly at 10 min post-stressor between treatment groups, suggesting exposure to acute psychological stress leads to a reduced ability to respond to bacterial challenge.

Original publication




Journal article


Int J Occup Saf Ergon

Publication Date





3 - 13


Adult, Analysis of Variance, Automobiles, Female, Heart Rate, Humans, Leukocytes, Luminescent Measurements, Male, Middle Aged, Reactive Oxygen Species, Stress, Psychological, Task Performance and Analysis, Tetradecanoylphorbol Acetate