Skin conductance as a viable alternative for closing the deep brain stimulation loop in neuropsychiatric disorders

Dilranjan S. Wickramasuriya, Md Rafiul Amin, Rose T. Faghih

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Markers from local field potentials, neurochemicals, skin conductance, and hormone concentrations have been proposed as a means of closing the loop in Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) therapy for treating neuropsychiatric and movement disorders. Developing a closed-loop DBS controller based on peripheral signals would require: (i) the recovery of a biomarker from the source neural stimuli underlying the peripheral signal variations; (ii) the estimation of an unobserved brain or central nervous system related state variable from the biomarker. The state variable is application-specific. It is emotion-related in the case of depression or post-traumatic stress disorder, and movement-related for Parkinson's or essential tremor. We present a method for closing the DBS loop in neuropsychiatric disorders based on the estimation of sympathetic arousal from skin conductance measurements. We deconvolve skin conductance via an optimization formulation utilizing sparse recovery and obtain neural impulses from sympathetic nerve fibers stimulating the sweat glands. We perform this deconvolution via a two-step coordinate descent procedure that recovers the sparse neural stimuli and estimates physiological system parameters simultaneously. We next relate an unobserved sympathetic arousal state to the probability that these neural impulses occur and use Bayesian filtering within an Expectation-Maximization framework for estimation. We evaluate our method on a publicly available data-set examining the effect of different types of stress on peripheral signal changes including body temperature, skin conductance and heart rate. A high degree of arousal is estimated during cognitive tasks, as are much lower levels during relaxation. The results demonstrate the ability to decode psychological arousal from neural activity underlying skin conductance signal variations. The complete pipeline from recovering neural stimuli to decoding an emotion-related brain state using skin conductance presents a promising methodology for the ultimate realization of a closed-loop DBS controller. Closed-loop DBS treatment would additionally help reduce unnecessary power consumption and improve therapeutic gains.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number780
JournalFrontiers in Genetics
Issue numberJUL
StatePublished - 2019


  • Arousal
  • Deconvolution analysis
  • Deep brain stimulation (DBS)
  • Skin conductance (SC)
  • State-space (SS) representation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Genetics
  • Genetics(clinical)


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