A bayesian filtering approach for tracking arousal from binary and continuous skin conductance features

Dilranjan S. Wickramasuriya, Rose T. Faghih

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: Neuroanatomical structures within the cortical and sub-cortical brain regions process emotion and cause subsequent variations in signals such as skin conductance and electrocardiography. The signals often encode information in their continuous-valued amplitudes or waves as well as in their underlying impulsive events. We propose to track psychological arousal from this hybrid source of skin conductance information. Methods: We present a point process state-space method in tandem with Bayesian filtering for determining a continuous-valued arousal state from skin conductance measurements. To perform state estimation, we relate arousal to binary- and continuous-valued observations derived from the phasic and tonic parts of a skin conductance signal, and recover model parameters using expectation-maximization. We evaluate our model on both synthetic and two different experimental data sets. Stress was artificially induced in the first experimental data set and the second comprised of a fear conditioning experiment. Results: Results on the first data set indicate high levels of arousal during exposure to cognitive stress and low arousal during relaxation. Plausible results are also obtained in the fear conditioning data set consistent with previous skin conductance studies in similar experimental contexts. Conclusion: The state-space approach - which does not rely on external classification labels - is able to continuously track an arousal level from skin conductance features. Significance: The method is a promising arousal estimation scheme utilizing only skin conductance. The approach could find applications in wearable monitoring and the study of neuropsychiatric conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number8859231
Pages (from-to)1749-1760
Number of pages12
JournalIEEE Transactions on Biomedical Engineering
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2020


  • Affective computing
  • Biomedical signal processing
  • Emotion recognition
  • Kalman filters
  • State-space methods

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biomedical Engineering


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