What Physiological Factors Influence Cognitive Performance in Military Personnel?

Research Paper Title

Physiological Factors Which Influence Cognitive Performance in Military Personnel.


Maintenance of cognitive and task performance is important under several scenarios, none more so than in a military context. Personnel are prepared for and trained to tolerate many of the stressors they encounter; however, consideration of stressors typically extends only as far as the physical, psychological, and environmental requirements of a given task. While considering these factors certainly characterises the broader picture, several physiological states and traits can influence cognition and thus, should also be considered. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to identify and detail physiological factors that influence cognition in military personnel.


A systematic review of the electronic databases Medline (PubMed), EMBASE (Scopus), PsycINFO, and Web of Science was conducted from inception up to January 2019. Eligibility criteria included current military personnel, an outcome of cognition, and the assessment of a physiological factor.


The search returned 60,564 records, of which 60 were included in the review. Eleven studies examined the impact of demographic factors on cognition, 16 examined fatigue, 10 investigated nutrition, and 24 the impact of biological factors on cognitive performance.


Factors identified as having a positive impact on cognition include aerobic fitness, nutritional supplementation, and visual acuity. In contrast, factors identified as having a negative impact include fatigue arising from sustained operations, dehydration, under-nutrition, and an exaggerated physiological stress response to a cognitive task or a stressor. A further subset of these factors was considered modifiable.

The modifiable factors identified provide avenues for training and preparation to enhance cognition in ways previously unconsidered.


Martin, K., Périard, J., Rattray, B. & Pyne, D.B. (2019) Physiological Factors Which Influence Cognitive Performance in Military Personnel. Human Factors. doi: 10.1177/0018720819841757. [Epub ahead of print].


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