WASHINGTON, April 7 (Xinhua) -- A little stress may be good for teenage drivers.
Researchers from the University of Sherbrooke, Canada, found that teens with a higher response to stress measured by cortisol levels, a neurological marker of stress regulation linked to risky behavior, have lower crash and near-crash rates (CNC).
The study, published Monday in the U.S. journal JAMA Pediatrics, examined the association between cortisol response during a stress- inducing task among 40 newly licensed 16-year-old drivers, including 19 males and 21 females, over a period of 18 months between 2006 and 2008.
The researchers induced stress by asking the participants to do mathematical tasks and then measured their cortisol levels from saliva samples. Meanwhile, in-vehicle cameras and sensors allowed continuous observation of driving.
They found drivers who responded with higher cortisol levels had lower CNC rates regardless of the sex of the driver. Meanwhile, teenagers with lower response to stress were more likely to crash.
"This study found that cortisol, a neurobiological marker, was associated with teenaged driving risk," the researchers wrote in their paper.
Identification of a marker related to teenaged driving risk " promises the development of more personalized intervention approaches," the researchers added.
In a related editorial, Dennis Durbin of the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia said the most immediate implication of the findings is for continued research to better characterize the relationship between cortisol and teenage driving behavior.
Durbin also cautioned that the findings "do not suggest that we are close to developing a clinically useful biomarker-based diagnostic test nor a pharmaceutical therapy to reduce the risk for teen-driver crashes."