Thursday, October 17, 2013

One Step Closer: The Fearless Soldier

I'm adding a new feature on Thursdays where I'll take something predicted in science fiction and explain how a recent discovery brought us one step closer to it.

In some cases these may be good things. In others, not so much...

Today, medical researchers claim to have discovered a vaccine for PTSD. That is to say, they have a way to reduce the risk of soldiers getting PTSD through an annual shot.

The basic idea is to control the levels of ghrelin, a hormone associated with appetite...but also with fear. (Possibly because you need to replace energy after running or fighting). They've discovered that increasing ghrelin levels makes you more afraid (Maybe we need to check the ghrelin levels of paranoia sufferers? Could it actually be an excess of this one hormone?). Reducing ghrelin levels makes you less afraid.

The idea of a shot to make soldiers fearless in battle has been used a few times in military science fiction. Maybe it really will just make them less susceptible to PTSD - but I hope they will check it first and make sure it doesn't make them less susceptible to fear. A fearless soldier might seem like a great military sci-fi trope - but in the real world, such a man is far more likely to make mistakes or do something heroically stupid.