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Fine motor skills, do you really lose it under stress?

This is a discussion on Fine motor skills, do you really lose it under stress? within the The Classroom forums, part of the Use and Training category; I've heard over and over again that during stress a person may lose fine motor skills. As I have read about this subject I have ...

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Old 06-01-2013, 03:31 PM   #1
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Fine motor skills, do you really lose it under stress?

I've heard over and over again that during stress a person may lose fine motor skills. As I have read about this subject I have started to believe that this may not actually be true. One example that sticks in my mind are fighter pilots. They are under a lot of stress in combat and at the same time work all of the electronics and comm gear. I also think of a trauma surgeon who is under great stress in an emergency or mass disaster situation. How about the snipers that makes a record breaking long distance shot while they KNOW their comrades are being shot and killed in battle?

As shooters we have been taught grip, stance, sight alignment and trigger control. We have also been taught that repetition creates muscle memory.. Then comes "During a stress situation you can't count on your body and muscles to perform". Somehow the two schools of thought appear to contradicts each other. Consider that pulling a trigger is a fine motor skill and yet releasing a slide is not. I've observed that some have said that it is better to release a slide a certain way due to loose of fine motor skills and at the same time say you should pull the trigger straight back, clearly a fine motor skill.

I am by no means a body mechanics expert or even extraordinarily well versed in the human body and mind. As a sample of one, I look back at some of my actions and others under stress and have trouble believing that one ALWAYS loses fine motor skills under stress.

Maybe it is actually the training, or lack there of, that is the deciding factor. Maybe drive and desire play a part. It could also be that ones calmness of mind hinders the bodies "fight or fight" reflex. I thought that this would be a good topic to discuss. I would really like to hear others LEARNED opinions on this.

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Old 06-01-2013, 05:40 PM   #2
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I wouldn't say it's a complete contradiction. When you are under stress, you revert to instinct. If you've practiced and acquired instinctual fine motor skills, you will likely retain and use them under stress. Conversely, try learning a new way to shoot while being shot at. It's not necessarily a loss of fine motor control, as much as a zero gain.
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Old 06-01-2013, 06:13 PM   #3
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Training compensates for the increased stresses and heart rate/adrenaline.

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  1. THE EFFECTS OF PHYSICAL AND MENTAL STRESS.


Any perceived threat to one’s self-image or physical safety induces a primordial response in the human body known as the “Body Alarm Reaction.” This occurs when normal mental and/or physical responses combine to produce results that are designed to prepare the body for the enormously taxing effort of self-preservation: to run as fast or to fight as hard, as it needs to for survival. This is the highest state of Body Alarm Reaction and is known as the “Fight or Flight Reflex.” AS A MARINE WE ALWAYS FIGHT. The severity of the reflex can vary between individuals and situations. You must be prepared for the effects of mental stress, so can stay in the fight and produce enemy bodies.


a. Physical aspects. In a high stress situation (fire fight) a Marine will encounter many physical changes. Awareness of these physical changes will enable the Marine to compensate for them in actual combat.


(1) Increased Heart and Respiratory Rate. In response to perceived threats the body’s metabolic rate is increased. Both the heart and respiratory rates are increased to provide more fuel to the muscles. These are normal responses that in extreme situations may cause loss of control over bodily functions; pale, clammy skin; and the increased oxygen flow can result in light-headedness, dizziness, and the loss of fine motor skills. If the individual cannot control respiratory rate, he may hyperventilate and become unconscious.
(2) Chemical cocktail. In a high stress environment the Body Alarm Reaction causes the brain, endocrine, and pituitary systems to release several powerful hormones and chemicals. This is called a chemical cocktail. This cocktail is the body’s natural reaction to provide the tools needed to survive a violent confrontation. If you are not prepared for the effects of these chemicals they will do more harm than good.
a) Epinephrine (Adrenaline) is the core of the fight or flight reflex. This chemical facilitates immediate physical reactions by triggering increases in heart rate and breathing. It constricts blood vessels in many parts of the body such as: the hands, feet, skin, digestive system and many of the small muscle groups. This causes the loss of dexterity in a firefight. The blood vessels in the muscles and organs supporting the fight are dilated and the blood being constricted from the smaller muscles and organs is diverted into the major muscles. This is why people in a high stress situation have super-human strength. A woman weighing 125 pounds can rip a car door off a burning car to save her children. This chemical gives you the tools you need fight as hard as you can. Adrenaline is a powerful weapon and it causes the body to work much harder than normal. Because the body is working so much harder, it will tire much faster if it is in the blood stream for extended periods.
b) Dopamine is a chemical naturally released in the body and is a precursor to epinephrine. Dopamine is also a neurotransmitter for endorphins, meaning it creates a pathway. Endorphins act as a desensitizer to pain. This is why a man can have his arm blown off and not even notice until he sees it. Dopamine is released more when unpleasant or aversive stimulants are encountered, and so motivates towards the pleasure of avoiding or removing the unpleasant stimuli (firefight). If you are in the wrong state of mind, you will try to do anything you can to avoid a fight. As a Marine a fight should be comfortable and expected. A Marine should want to get into a fight for his chance to kill.
c) Cortisol is also secreted in a high stress situation. It has many functions in the body. It will draw the reserves of protein in most of the body’s cells, giving your body a quick burst of energy to help you fight harder. There are a few other positive side effects as well. Cortisol will give you heightened memory functions, a burst of increased immunity, lower sensitivity to pain, and helps maintain homeostasis in the body. Higher and prolonged levels of cortisol may have negative side effects. It may cause a decrease in bone density, decrease in muscle tissue, higher blood pressure, lowered immunity, and increased abdominal fat.
(3) Pupil Dilation. When a threat is perceived the brain automatically enlarges pupil dilation of the eyes. This increases sensitivity to subtle changes in light, enhances contrast and distinction of shapes, and will help identify anything that may be considered a threat.


(4) Eyes. The Body Alarm Reaction causes both eyes to open wide and remain open to increase field of vision and depth perception, and is there to help identify a threat. This is the reason for the “deer in the headlights” look and is a natural response to any sudden cause for alarm.


b. Mental Responses. Under severe stress, the normal mental process becomes extremely difficult and the mind resorts to its most basic process. The following are examples of psychological effects the shooter may experience during a firefight or a high stress situation. You must know the effects and prepare yourself for these changes to keep you in the fight.




(1) Tunnel Vision. This is when the mind centers the attention of the eyes away from extraneous visual information on the periphery in order to better focus on the threat in the middle of the field of view. This can be detrimental if the Marine keeps his focus on the target after the target is dead. The Marine must search and asses to help break tunnel vision and look for follow on targets.


(2) Tachypsychia. This is the Greek term for “speed of the mind.” It is when the mind processes information at a rate faster than normal. This can cause a perception of “slow motion” during real-time events, and a warped understanding of the actual time/distance involved. In a fight the brain rapidly receives a huge dump of information from all of the senses. To compensate, the brain speeds up in order to process it all. This will cause everything to appear to move in slow motion.


(3) Auditory Exclusion. Extraneous auditory information is filtered by the mind in order to exclude any sounds assumed to be other than that of the threat. This can cause a person to seem deaf to all but the immediate threat and to appear to ignore friendly sounds, warnings, commands and communications.


(4) Precognition. Because the human mind can think faster than some events occur, in a heightened state of alarm the mind can cause a person to think they can predict a certain outcome based on sensory input. One example is; when a car goes off a bridge, the mind “predicts” the crash a split-second before it actually happens. When such a predicted outcome becomes reality, that person then feels as if they held a precognitive sensory perception or “sixth sense” for predicting the future.


(5) Cognitive Dissonance. The mind stores information based on relevance, importance, or sensory strength and not necessarily the sequence of time. Under normal conditions it requires effort to recall any information in the actual sequence of events. However, a cognitive dissonance exists when the mind recalls conflicting information, due to the automatic and self-preserving economy of the mind. Confusing recollections and remembering events out of sequence are both common results for events that happened during a heightened state of Body Alarm Reaction.


2. THE COLOR CODE SYSTEM.


a. Mental Conditioning. Mental Conditioning trains toward a conscious state of awareness, which prepares a Marine to pull the trigger on another human. You have to always be prepared to kill. If you are encountering a friendly individual you must maintain bearing, but always prepare a plan to kill him. Quite possibly, the most effective deterrent is an alert Marine. An adversary would rather deal with an unaware, passive Marine than an aware alert Marine. Proper mental conditioning will assist the Marine in preventing or defusing a situation before deadly force becomes necessary. If deadly force is required, the combination of combat marksmanship training and mental conditioning will enable the Marine to successfully accomplish the mission.


(1) Condition White. Condition White is a state of translucence during which a person is totally vulnerable and is unaware of his surroundings. You cannot afford to be caught in this condition. It is easy to become complacent, especially when you have been in a country and on alert for months and nothing has occurred. Being caught in this mindset at the onset of an engagement will increase the chances of experiencing total panic characterized by the total inability to logically think or react.


(2) Condition Yellow. Condition Yellow is a state of nonspecific alert. You are aware of everything going on around you and should the need arise you are prepared to act. Without practice, staying in this state of alert can become fatiguing, but strive to be in this condition at all times. Complacency will kill.


(3) Condition Orange. Condition Orange is a state of specific alert. A dangerous situation has been identified. Prepare a course of action before you are engaged.


(4) Condition Red. Condition red is the state of being decisively engaged with a specific threat. The decisions have been made and the determined course of action is being taken.


b. You need not be armed to react to a threat, you are a weapon with no requirement to go through all of the conditions; you may be forced to go straight from yellow to red.


3. MINDSET.


In order to succeed in a combat environment the Marine must first possess the proper frame of mind. The following traits are all part of the proper mindset:


a. Aggressive. This is not to say that we will act as "bulls in a china shop,” but that we will be aggressive and strive for mission accomplishment. You must be in the mindset to eliminate any and all threats in a controlled manner.


b. Confident. You must be confident in your abilities both individually and as a team. You must be able to focus on fighting and not worry about who has your back.


c.Relaxed. If you are confident in your abilities and in your team’s ability, then your mind will be relaxed and you will perform better physically and mentally.


SUMMARY:


During this class we have covered the effects of physical and mental stress, the color code system, and the mindset.
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Old 06-02-2013, 10:49 PM   #4
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When my body kicks in adrenaline I start to shake, so pushing a small button may take a little longer.
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Old 06-02-2013, 11:45 PM   #5
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Fun story: I used to get really tense for sparring and practice fights -- spent all my energy just clenching up and never getting anything done. Had to retrain my adrenaline response: it never leaves you, you'll always have the adrenaline rush from a fight, but you can teach your body how to better handle it.

How do you do this for guns?

Do some fast cardio, get your heart rate up, then do target drills. Have caffeine + sugar to simulate the effects of adrenaline and try to control your hands shaking. Run half a mile flat-out, then draw and intelligently defend yourself. Drill weak hand. Drill strong hand. Drill from the ground on your back. Drill from kneeling.

And of course, enter in a defensive pistol competition. Don't worry about the other competitors, don't worry about your ranking, use your carry gun and do your best. Most EDC guns should be stock service pistol, so enter an IDPA match and see how your body handles it. It's not the real thing, but it'll get your blood up.
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Old 06-03-2013, 12:19 PM   #6
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It depends on conditioning and training and is likewise person dependent. I had to draw my M9 once while in Afghanistan. Being that I was in a vehicle, I thought it better to keep the safety on, but when I drew and readied to use it, it took me three attempts to disengage the safety. That's three attempts at a flick of the thumb and I had to focus just a tiny bit on the third attempt. It maybe took all of two seconds, but seemed a lot longer at the time.

As for the rest of it, I felt light as a feather, my lips, nose, fingers tingled, and everything slowed down. My heart beat so hard/strong that I thought the person next to me could clearly hear it through all the noise. Other than the safety, my mind was clear and focused. Despite how I was physically feeling, my mind ran through what I considered the likely scenarios to happen and then I just waited/prepared for one. My mind was actually quite calm and ran through the thoughts matter-of-factly.

The only part that required fine motor skills was disengagement of the safety, but as mentioned, it took me a few attempts to finally get it. It's because of this I will never carry a gun with a safety engaged. I either carry a straight, non-safety, striker fired gun such as a PPQ or Glock, or carry a DA pistol such as one of my CZs that doesn't allow you to engage the safety when in DA mode.

After the incident above, I never, ever carried the M9 with the safety engaged when travelling. Every person will react differently. I can only speak for myself.
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Old 06-03-2013, 12:24 PM   #7
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Read "On Combat" by Lt Colonel David Grossman.
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Old 06-03-2013, 12:44 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kodiakco View Post
I've heard over and over again that during stress a person may lose fine motor skills. As I have read about this subject I have started to believe that this may not actually be true. One example that sticks in my mind are fighter pilots. They are under a lot of stress in combat and at the same time work all of the electronics and comm gear. I also think of a trauma surgeon who is under great stress in an emergency or mass disaster situation. How about the snipers that makes a record breaking long distance shot while they KNOW their comrades are being shot and killed in battle?

As shooters we have been taught grip, stance, sight alignment and trigger control. We have also been taught that repetition creates muscle memory.. Then comes "During a stress situation you can't count on your body and muscles to perform". Somehow the two schools of thought appear to contradicts each other. Consider that pulling a trigger is a fine motor skill and yet releasing a slide is not. I've observed that some have said that it is better to release a slide a certain way due to loose of fine motor skills and at the same time say you should pull the trigger straight back, clearly a fine motor skill.

I am by no means a body mechanics expert or even extraordinarily well versed in the human body and mind. As a sample of one, I look back at some of my actions and others under stress and have trouble believing that one ALWAYS loses fine motor skills under stress.

Maybe it is actually the training, or lack there of, that is the deciding factor. Maybe drive and desire play a part. It could also be that ones calmness of mind hinders the bodies "fight or fight" reflex. I thought that this would be a good topic to discuss. I would really like to hear others LEARNED opinions on this.

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I think you're mixing and confusing the different/various scenarios. There's a huge difference between feeling anxious versus your instinct taking over just as there's a huge difference between self preservation and the preservation of another. A sniper won't feel the same level of stress as they are not physically the ones in immediate danger unless being shot at themselves. Same goes for a surgeon whose life is not in danger. A fighter pilot spends a ton of time in real-world training and simulators so that they react via pre-conditioned steps/operations.

Likewise, I don't consider pulling a trigger a fine motor skill as under stress (for the average person), I think it'll be more like gripping/clenching the gun, but it all depends on the situation. If gripping/clenching, the trigger finger would be the only one with freedom to move thereby pulling the trigger. A lot of it will depend on training.

Many think they're going to get the perfect grip, get into the perfect stance, etc. when their life is immediately in danger. I think they're dreaming. I think they'll more closely do what they've trained to do and do the best they can.
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Old 06-03-2013, 05:37 PM   #9
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Thanks everyone for the responses so far. Its really interesting, the different thoughts of everyone. Keep it coming!

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Old 06-03-2013, 09:23 PM   #10
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you can make instinctive fine movements under extreme stress, but if its something you have to think about at all; forget it.
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