Physiological characterization of electrodermal activity enables scalable near real-time autonomic nervous system activation inference

Rafiul Amin, Rose T. Faghih

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Electrodermal activities (EDA) are any electrical phxenomena observed on the skin. Skin conductance (SC), a measure of EDA, shows fluctuations due to autonomic nervous system (ANS) activation induced sweat secretion. Since it can capture psychophysiological information, there is a significant rise in the research work for tracking mental and physiological health with EDA. However, the current state-of-the-art lacks a physiologically motivated approach for real-time inference of ANS activation from EDA. Therefore, firstly, we propose a comprehensive model for the SC dynamics. The proposed model is a 3D state-space representation of the direct secretion of sweat via pore opening and diffusion followed by corresponding evaporation and reabsorption. As the input to the model, we consider a sparse signal representing the ANS activation that causes the sweat glands to produce sweat. Secondly, we derive a scalable fixed-interval smoother-based sparse recovery approach utilizing the proposed comprehensive model to infer the ANS activation enabling edge computation. We incorporate a generalized-cross-validation to tune the sparsity level. Finally, we propose an Expectation-Maximization based deconvolution approach for learning the model parameters during the ANS activation inference. For evaluation, we utilize a dataset with 26 participants, and the results show that our comprehensive state-space model can successfully describe the SC variations with high scalability, showing the feasibility of real-time applications. Results validate that our physiology-motivated state-space model can comprehensively explain the EDA and outperforms all previous approaches. Our findings introduce a whole new perspective and have a broader impact on the standard practices of EDA analysis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere1010275
JournalPLoS computational biology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Modeling and Simulation
  • Ecology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Computational Theory and Mathematics


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