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Concept: Galvanic skin response


Misophonia is an affective sound-processing disorder characterized by the experience of strong negative emotions (anger and anxiety) in response to everyday sounds, such as those generated by other people eating, drinking, chewing, and breathing [1-8]. The commonplace nature of these sounds (often referred to as “trigger sounds”) makes misophonia a devastating disorder for sufferers and their families, and yet nothing is known about the underlying mechanism. Using functional and structural MRI coupled with physiological measurements, we demonstrate that misophonic subjects show specific trigger-sound-related responses in brain and body. Specifically, fMRI showed that in misophonic subjects, trigger sounds elicit greatly exaggerated blood-oxygen-level-dependent (BOLD) responses in the anterior insular cortex (AIC), a core hub of the "salience network" that is critical for perception of interoceptive signals and emotion processing. Trigger sounds in misophonics were associated with abnormal functional connectivity between AIC and a network of regions responsible for the processing and regulation of emotions, including ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC), posteromedial cortex (PMC), hippocampus, and amygdala. Trigger sounds elicited heightened heart rate (HR) and galvanic skin response (GSR) in misophonic subjects, which were mediated by AIC activity. Questionnaire analysis showed that misophonic subjects perceived their bodies differently: they scored higher on interoceptive sensibility than controls, consistent with abnormal functioning of AIC. Finally, brain structural measurements implied greater myelination within vmPFC in misophonic individuals. Overall, our results show that misophonia is a disorder in which abnormal salience is attributed to particular sounds based on the abnormal activation and functional connectivity of AIC.

Concepts: Brain, Cerebrum, Hippocampus, Limbic system, Prefrontal cortex, Ventromedial prefrontal cortex, Insular cortex, Galvanic skin response


Autonomic dysfunction is implicated in prehypertension, and previous studies have suggested that therapies that improve modulation of sympathovagal balance, such as biofeedback and slow abdominal breathing, are effective in patients with prehypertension at rest. However, considering that psychophysiological stressors may be associated with greater cardiovascular risk in prehypertensives, it is important to investigate whether heart rate variability biofeedback (HRV-BF) results in equivalent effects on autonomic cardiovascular responses control during stressful conditions in prehypertensives. A total of 32 college students with prehypertension were enrolled and randomly assigned to HRV-BF (n=12), slow abdominal breathing (SAB, n=10) or no treatment (control, n=10) groups. Then, a training experiment consisting of 15 sessions was employed to compare the effect of each intervention on the following cardiovascular response indicators before and after intervention: heart rate (HR); heart rate variability (HRV) components; blood volume pulse amplitude (BVPamp); galvanic skin response; respiration rate (RSP); and blood pressure. In addition, the cold pressor test and the mental arithmetic challenge test were also performed over two successive days before and after the invention as well as after 3 months of follow-up. A significant decrease in HR and RSP and a significant increase in BVPamp were observed after the HRV-BF intervention (P<0.001). For the HRV analysis, HRV-BF significantly reduced the ratio of low-frequency power to high-frequency power (the LF/HF ratio, P<0.001) and increased the normalized high-frequency power (HFnm) (P<0.001) during the stress tests, and an added benefit over SAB by improving HRV was also observed. In the 3-month follow-up study, similar effects on RSP, BVPamp, LF/HF and HFnm were observed in the HRV-BF group compared with the SAB group. HRV-BF training contributes to the beneficial effect of reducing the stress-related cardiovascular response in prehypertensives by improving autonomic sympathovagal modulation.Journal of Human Hypertension advance online publication, 30 April 2015; doi:10.1038/jhh.2015.27.

Concepts: Blood, Hypertension, Cardiology, Blood pressure, Effectiveness, Pulse, Ratio, Galvanic skin response


Our body is made of flesh and bones. We know it, and in our daily lives all the senses constantly provide converging information about this simple, factual truth. But is this always the case? Here we report a surprising bodily illusion demonstrating that humans rapidly update their assumptions about the material qualities of their body, based on their recent multisensory perceptual experience. To induce a misperception of the material properties of the hand, we repeatedly gently hit participants' hand with a small hammer, while progressively replacing the natural sound of the hammer against the skin with the sound of a hammer hitting a piece of marble. After five minutes, the hand started feeling stiffer, heavier, harder, less sensitive, unnatural, and showed enhanced Galvanic skin response (GSR) to threatening stimuli. Notably, such a change in skin conductivity positively correlated with changes in perceived hand stiffness. Conversely, when hammer hits and impact sounds were temporally uncorrelated, participants did not spontaneously report any changes in the perceived properties of the hand, nor did they show any modulation in GSR. In two further experiments, we ruled out that mere audio-tactile synchrony is the causal factor triggering the illusion, further demonstrating the key role of material information conveyed by impact sounds in modulating the perceived material properties of the hand. This novel bodily illusion, the ‘Marble-Hand Illusion’, demonstrates that the perceived material of our body, surely the most stable attribute of our bodily self, can be quickly updated through multisensory integration.

Concepts: Perception, Sense, Concept, Sound, Philosophy of perception, Conveyed concept, Illusion, Galvanic skin response


According to social baseline theory (Beckes & Coan, 2011), load sharing is a feature of close relationships whereby the burden of emotional distress is distributed across relationship partners. Load sharing varies by physical closeness and relationship quality. We investigated the effect of load sharing on emotional arousal via galvanic skin response, an indicator of sympathetic nervous system arousal, during a social stressor. Social stress was elicited in 66 adolescent girls (Mage = 15 years) using a spontaneous public-speaking task. Mother-daughter dyads reported their relationship quality, and physical closeness was manipulated by having mothers either touch or not touch their daughter’s hand during the performance. We found evidence of load sharing among dyads who held hands, independent of relationship quality. However, without physical contact, load sharing was only evident among dyads with higher relationship quality. Thus, high relationship quality buffers against threat in a similar way to the physical comfort of a loved one. (PsycINFO Database Record

Concepts: Psychology, Skin, Sense, Interpersonal relationship, Norepinephrine, Love, Parasympathetic nervous system, Galvanic skin response


Abstract The present study tested two competing hypotheses about the effect of Facebook exposure on the physiological arousal level of participants who then encountered the stimulus person in a face-to-face situation. Facebook exposure may attenuate later arousal by providing increased comfort and confidence, but it is also possible that Facebook exposure will augment arousal, particularly among the socially anxious. Participants completed a measure of social anxiety and were exposed to a stimulus person via Facebook, face to face, or both. Galvanic skin response was recorded during the exposures to the stimulus person. Results were consistent with the augmentation hypothesis: a prior exposure on Facebook will lead to increased arousal during a face-to-face encounter, particularly for those high in social anxiety.

Concepts: Anxiety, Galvanic skin response


In spite of the prevalence of frustration in everyday life, very few neuroimaging studies were focused on this emotional state. In the current study we aimed to examine effects of frustration on brain activity while performing a well-learned task in participants with low and high tolerance for arousal. Prior to the functional magnetic resonance imaging session, the subjects underwent 2 weeks of Braille reading training. Frustration induction was obtained by using a novel highly difficult tactile task based on discrimination of Braille-like raised dots patterns and negative feedback. Effectiveness of this procedure has been confirmed in a pilot study using galvanic skin response and questionnaires. Brain activation pattern during tactile discrimination task before and after frustration were compared directly. Results revealed changes in brain activity in structures mostly reported in acute stress studies: striatum, cingulate cortex, insula, middle frontal gyrus and precuneus and in structures engaged in tactile Braille discrimination: SI and SII. Temperament type affected activation pattern. Subjects with low tolerance for arousal showed higher activation in the posterior cingulate gyrus, precuneus, and inferior parietal lobule than high reactivity group. Even though performance in the discrimination trials following frustration was unaltered, we observed increased activity of primary and secondary somatosensory cortex processing the tactile information. We interpret this effect as an indicator of additional involvement required to counteract the effects of frustration.

Concepts: Brain, Effect, Magnetic resonance imaging, Cerebrum, Parietal lobe, Brodmann area 24, Cingulate gyrus, Galvanic skin response


Music is a potent mood regulator that can induce relaxation and reduce anxiety in different situations. While several studies demonstrate that certain types of music have a subjective anxiolytic effect, the reported results from physiological responses are less conclusive. Virtual reality allows us to study diverse scenarios of real life under strict experimental control while preserving high ecological validity. We aimed to study the modulating effect of music on the anxiety responses triggered by an immersive virtual reality scenario designed to induce fear of heights. Subjects experienced a virtual scenario depicting an exterior elevator platform ascending and descending the total height of its 350 meters tall supporting structure. Participants were allocated to either a group that experienced the elevator ride with background music or without, in a between-groups design. Furthermore, each group included participants with different degrees of fear of heights, ranging from low to high fear. Recordings of heart rate, galvanic skin response, body balance, and head movements were obtained during the experiments. Subjective anxiety was measured by means of three questionnaires. The scenario produced significant changes in subjective and physiological measures, confirming its efficacy as a stressor. A significant increase in state anxiety was found between pre and post-assessment in the silence group, but not in the music group, indicating that post-stress recovery was faster in the musical group. Results suggest that music can ameliorate the subjective anxiety produced by fear of heights.

Concepts: Anxiety, Experiment, Fear, Virtual reality, Music, Opera, Galvanic skin response, Musical ensemble


The human voice transmits pertinent information regarding health status and age, with recent evidence suggesting that it plays an important role in mate selection. However, the mechanism that drives preferences for voices of fertile females has yet to be elucidated. The current study examined the physiological changes that occur when listening to voices recorded from naturally cycling females at high and low fertility phases of the menstrual cycle, as well as from females using hormonal contraception. We found the voices of naturally cycling females recorded during a high fertility phase were rated as more attractive and produced the greatest increase in galvanic skin response (GSR). Heart rate (HR) also showed a trend towards the highest increase when listening to naturally cycling, high fertility female voices. There were no differences in ratings of voice attractiveness, GSR, or HR between the voices recorded from females using hormonal contraception. Analyzed separately, male and female listeners both showed a preference for naturally cycling, high fertility voices. Female listeners additionally showed increased GSR and HR responses to naturally cycling, high fertility voices. We discuss the adaptive benefits of detecting vocal changes for male as well as female listeners, and also discuss the role that the nervous system plays during human mate assessments.

Concepts: Human, Hormonal contraception, Combined oral contraceptive pill, Sex, Spermatozoon, Menstrual cycle, Human voice, Galvanic skin response


The asymmetry of autonomic arousal for potential losses and gains was assessed by the galvanic skin response (GSR) of participants playing classic and inverted versions of the Monty Hall problem (MHP). In both versions, the prize remained the same (a pen valued at £10 for the right answer), but in the modified version, prizes were received prior to choosing the door. Both experimental groups showed increased levels of GSR while completing the task, demonstrating increased autonomic arousal during the game. However, a robust difference in GSR was detected between classic and inverted versions of the MHP, thus demonstrating the differing autonomic arousal involved in deciding between the alternatives presented by the game. Participants experienced a stronger autonomic response when they could lose the prize than when they could win the prize. This experiment presents the first demonstration of this effect on the MHP. The stronger autonomic arousal for the inverted task may indicate a stronger emotional reaction and/or greater attentional focus than for the standard version of the task. These data demonstrate that potential losses increase arousal in more complex tasks than is typically shown.

Concepts: Demonstration, Galvanic skin response, Monty Hall problem, Let's Make a Deal


This paper introduces activity-related behavioural features that can be automatically extracted from a computer system, with the aim to increase the effectiveness of automatic stress detection. The proposed features are based on processing of appropriate video and accelerometer recordings taken from the monitored subjects. For the purposes of the present study, an experiment was conducted that utilized a stress-induction protocol based on the stroop colour word test. Video, accelerometer and biosignal (Electrocardiogram and Galvanic Skin Response) recordings were collected from nineteen participants. Then, an explorative study was conducted by following a methodology mainly based on spatiotemporal descriptors (Motion History Images) that are extracted from video sequences. A large set of activity-related behavioural features, potentially useful for automatic stress detection, were proposed and examined. Experimental evaluation showed that several of these behavioural features significantly correlate to self-reported stress. Moreover, it was found that the use of the proposed features can significantly enhance the performance of typical automatic stress detection systems, commonly based on biosignal processing.

Concepts: Present, Effectiveness, Electroencephalography, Experiment, Computer, Measuring instruments, Galvanic skin response, Biosignal