WELLINGTON, March 5 (Xinhua) -- Research carried out after the 2010 Christchurch earthquake could help peacekeeping forces and other organizations determine whether personnel are fit to work after highly stressful events or major disasters, said New Zealand scientists.
The University of Canterbury psychology team arranged for people after the Sept. 4, 2010, 7.1-magnitude quake to perform sensitive computer tasks to assess how much they paid attention and what they were doing.
During the study they also measured the participants' oxygen levels in their brains.
"We measured changes in the brain tissue as an indicator of the brain's response to task demands. We also asked participants to report on their depressive, anxiety and stress symptoms in response to the earthquake," team leader Professor Deak Helton said in a statement Tuesday.
"The results, although tentative, suggest that people with extremely elevated stress symptoms may be able to be classified by the combination of their brain oxygen levels and performance on the computer tasks."
The findings could suggest objective indicators, rather than a person's own appraisal or reports of symptoms could help determine who was substantially impacted by stressful events.
"While many people would rely on someone's own reports of their symptoms, in some settings the person could be either unwilling or unable to make these self-assessments accurately," said Helton.
"If you look beyond earthquakes to the broader issue of stressful work such as peacekeeping missions, a significant concern is whether a peacekeeper that experienced a substantially stressful event is fit for redeployment," he said.
"While someone might suggest you could simply ask them, in that context there is probably a culture of not coming forward with these kinds of admissions as soldiering is traditionally a stoic culture."