Observing a fictitious stressful event: haematological changes, including circulating leukocyte activation

Stress. 2003 Mar;6(1):41-7. doi: 10.1080/1025389031000101349.


The aim of this study was to assess the effect of watching a psychological stressful event on the activation of leukocytes in healthy human volunteers. Blood samples were obtained from 32 healthy male and female subjects aged between 20 and 26 years before, during and after either watching an 83-minute horror film that none of the subjects had previously seen (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, 1974) or by sitting quietly in a room (control group). Total differential cell counts, leukocyte activation as measured by the nitroblue tetrazolium (NBT) test, heart rate and blood pressure (BP) measurements were taken at defined time points. There were significant increases in peripheral circulating leukocytes, the number of activated circulating leukocytes, haemoglobin (Hb) concentration and haematocrit (Hct) in response to the stressor. These were accompanied by significant increases in heart rate, systolic and diastolic BP (P<0.05 from baseline). This is the first reported study on the effects of observing a psychologically stressful, albeit fictitious event on circulating leukocyte numbers and the state of leukocyte activation as determined by the nitrotetrazolium test.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Blood Cells / pathology
  • Blood Pressure
  • Female
  • Heart Rate
  • Hematocrit
  • Hemoglobins / analysis
  • Humans
  • Indicators and Reagents
  • Leukocyte Count
  • Leukocytes / pathology*
  • Leukocytes / physiology*
  • Male
  • Motion Pictures*
  • Nitroblue Tetrazolium
  • Stress, Psychological / blood
  • Stress, Psychological / etiology*
  • Stress, Psychological / physiopathology*


  • Hemoglobins
  • Indicators and Reagents
  • Nitroblue Tetrazolium