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Inside the Tactical Research Unit

Written by Doctor of Physiotherapy student Alexander Kang.

When scientific research mixes with military, law enforcement, and fire fighters / first responders: you have the Tactical Research unit (TRU).

The TRU’s goal is to research ways to enhance the protection and performance of tactical personnel. I was lucky enough to assist my colleagues with their research at Zero Latency (a free-roaming virtual reality (VR) simulator) looking at the stress levels between military and police veterans as compared to novices in a zombie survival game.

As part of our Doctor of Physiotherapy program, I was required to complete a research project and I did mine through the TRU, as did several other students who completed research investigating tactical load carriage assistive devices and the job tasks required of mounted police.

During my project, I worked with the TRU team orientating participants, signing explanatory documents and waivers, and fitting them with bioharness vests to measure selected physiological measures (like heart rate, respiratory rates and skin temperature). We also collected saliva samples to look at hormonal markers of stress. The data were collected just before the simulation and then again post simulation at 15 minute, 30 minute and 60 minute intervals The veterans were the first groups through the Zombie survival game, followed shortly by the novices.

Following the formal data capture, we were invited to complete the scenario with the TRU staff in order to experience the Zombie Apocalypse stress event ourselves. This was a free-roaming VR which meant we were not bound to any walls or equipment and as such could actually bump into each other. The scenario required us to move along hallways, along the sides of buildings and climb into virtual helicopters all while fighting off a heard of zombies. In the end, our group ranked #32 out of 3,200 teams!

A similar study will be later conducted by  fellow Doctor of Physiotherapy classmates where they will be investigating which is worse, the stress levels from a Zombie apocalypse VR or a real world Neurological patient simulation. Remembering the stress, I experienced during my first patient simulation, I would be interested to find out which is more stressful.

This was a once in a lifetime experience to work with the TRU team and I would recommend other Physiotherapy students to complete a research unit with the TRU.

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