Inspiring Journey Of A Scientist To Assess Athlete Performance Using Saliva

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Dr Manuel Jimenez

Professor

Dept. of Psychology and Pshychobiology,

International University of La Rioja, Spain

1. What made you interested to delve in the field of saliva diagnostics?

At the beginning of my doctoral dissertation, I studied how athletes´ mood states influenced their performance. I discovered that some basic emotions (e.g. frustration, happiness, euphoria, fear, apprehension) elicited psycho-physiological response patterns by modulating allostatic adaptive processes in training and high competition. I decided to study some authors such as Berridge, Rolls, Panksepp, Damasio, Lupien until I understood how emotions modulate hormonal responses and peripheral activation. The next step was to find an easy, fast, minimally invasive, and precise diagnostic method. I was lucky enough to meet Lester Kirschbaum at a conference and realized that saliva was a fluid that I had to study. For several years I delved into the diagnostic analysis through saliva and discovered that we were facing one of the diagnostic methods of the future; easy, effective, precise, fast ... it gathered all the necessary ingredients. I went to the most prestigious laboratories in Spain, trained in saliva diagnostics, and improved my laboratory techniques. Our first results were a success, we managed to win the "Dr. Fernández Pastor" award for the best research in sports medicine in 2012.

Research work that was accepted and published in the prestigious journal Psychoneuroendocrinology. From 2010 to today there have been 11 years of research using saliva as a diagnostic method and with each passing day we are more convinced that we are at the starting point of a long Marathon whose finish line will be massively screened with simple saliva samples for the detection of all kinds of viruses, bacteria, cancer markers, social endocrinology ... A future that we are only capable of intuiting, but of which we still do not even know its limits.

I currently belong to two biomedical research groups, collaborate with national and international institutions, and coordinate two research projects with public funding that are beginning to show encouraging results. One of the questions that more than worries is to know the participation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal neuroendocrine axis in the metabolic syndrome. There is evidence of attenuation in glucocorticoid production related to a reduction in hippocampal volumes and the prefrontal cortex. Without a doubt, saliva is taking us step by step, not only to better understand our biology, also some underlying mechanisms of our brain.

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