With any sympathetic nervous system activation, skin reacts and becomes a better conductor of electricity. This can result from emotional, cognitive or other psychological origin. The phenomenon is known as electrodermal activity (EDA) and it is widely adopted in psychological research (1). Other commonly used terms for this phenomenon are skin conductance response and galvanic skin response.
EDA is generated by the activity of the sweat glands. Moodmetric measures the palmar skin on your finger. The palmar skin is the recommended EDA measurement location, since it has the highest eccrine sweat gland density (2). You can measure EDA elsewhere as well but the reliability is not as high or as easily achieved.
The unconscious actions of the human body are regulated by the autonomic nervous system. It consists of the sympathetic and parasympathetic part. The parasympathetic part controls the body’s rest-and-digest functions and the sympathetic part controls the fight-or-flight reactions. By examining electrodermal activity we can understand the sympathetic nervous system reactions.
The sweat glands are exclusively innervated by the sympathetic nervous system. This makes EDA an ideal measure for sympathetic activation (2). Electrodermal activity correlates to cognitive and emotional arousal, and high responses are caused by e.g. stress, enthusiasm, anxiety, joy, anger (1, 3).
Mobile EDA devices have been used by scientists for some time (2, 4). The Moodmetric ring is an unobtrusive option to follow EDA responses real-time and in long term.
The signal accuracy has been proven in a study of 24 people by the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health by J. Torniainen et al.. The accuracy against a laboratory grade reference was found to be 83 %. They conclude:
“Clearly the ring sensor can be used to measure a valid EDA signal as indicated by the similarity of both event-related responses and the calculated features. The accuracy of the Moodmetric EDA Ring is adequate for psychological and physiological research when weighted against the advantage of conducting ecologically valid experiments outside laboratory conditions.”
The results were accepted for publication in the 2015 conference of the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society (EMBC 2015, August 25-29).
The Moodmetric measurement accuracy has also been studied at the University of Tampere, Finland in 2014. The correlation with the reference equipment Nexus-10-MK II was good. Comparison details in charts below.
With skin conductance level (SCL) we refer here to raw measured skin conductance without any filtering. The figures below show the comparison of the two devices.
Further reading in an article by Jari Torniainen and Benjamin Cowley, published in August 2016:
1 Mendes, W.B. (2009). Assessing the autonomic nervous system. In: Harmon-Jones E. ja Beer J.S. Methods in social neuroscience. New York: Guilford Press. p. 118-147.
2 Setz C., Arnrich B., Schumm J. and La R. (2010) Discriminating Stress From Cognitive Load Using a Wearable EDA Device. IEEE Trans. Inf. Technol. Biomed. 14(2). p. 410-417.
3 Nikula R. (1991) Psychological correlates of nonspecific skin conductance responses. Psychophysiology. 28(1). p.86-90.
4 Poh M.Z, Swenson N.C. and Picard R.W. (2010) A Wearable Sensor for Unobtrusive, Long-Term Assessment of Electrodermal Activity. IEEE Trans. Biomed. Eng. 57(4). p. 1243-1252.
Guest post by Matti Nelimarkka
Before Christmas, I took part in research where I read news and my emotional state was monitored via Moodmetric. Thus, it was rather classical in the field-study, trying to validate if the technology and data analysis strategy can be used outside laboratories too. I’m waiting to hear the results, the challenge with psychophysiological measurements is noisiness, and doing the measurements when I’m under blanket or riding the bus should just generate more noise. But science aside, let’s speak my experience.
Once monitored, humans are often more conscious about their activities. I know this as the new effect but different fields approach this naturally using their own terminology for this well phenomena. What this meant for me was a rather weird experience of higher than normal ambiguity or unsureness about my own feelings. First, the need to label my emotions as well as being measured on those might have lead to social conformity; the need to report and feel the experiences one might experience.
More interestingly, towards the end I had difficulty to acknowledge my emotions. Naturally, Finnish news might not be the most interesting and emotion triggering material out there, but I think it wasn’t just about this. Instead, I believe that the knowledge of “scientific” measurements and my trust towards technology lead to the question: should the machine already know what I’m experiencing, why am I part of the loop here? I tried to outsource the interpretation of my emotional state to the magical ring, instead of asking myself these questions. Considering how vital part of humanity emotions are, it is somewhat worrying that I rather voluntarily left the task to the machine ands begs for me the question, at what point I’m no longer capable of understanding myself due to trusting these technologies too much?
Well, moving away from this type of autobiography to see what academia is saying on this. Unfortunately, I’m more familiar with the empirical work even while the real question here is more philosophical. Study on the feedback loops of psychophysiological adaptive system have recently gained some attraction in academia. Snyder et al (2015). studied both individual and group work situations aiming to support mindfulness through an adaptive psychophysiological system, MoodLight. They observed participants feeling somewhat weird after a system presented their internal state to them, but also trusted the output of the system:
For example, one participant felt that she was highly aroused, “stressed” in her words, although the output of the lights was a steady blue-violet. Rather than questioning the accuracy of the reading, she concluded, “I guess I’ve gotten better at not being totally enraged.”
In group situation, participants explained how they were not sure who is affecting the output in the end. Thus, based on my experiences and a super-shallow academic reading we can acknowledge the interesting effect these tools have in everyday life, even the awkwardness related to constant self-monitoring. Maybe an interesting design challenge would be considering how we relate to these technologies, more specially how we ensure that people still are sure of their own inner state – no matter what the sensors think.
Cross posted from Science & Industry
There are things where you are not supposed to compete, and meditation for sure is one of them. It is something highly personal, between you and your mind, and not to be inspected by others.
But especially for beginners some feedback would be nice. Feeling restless is normal, thoughts come and go; need to go and buy more milk today… When you progress, it is easier to let go of the milk-thoughts and keep you mind clear, but the road can be long.
The Moodmetric Ring measures the movements of you mind and gives an exact score of your meditation or minfulness session. Yes, you get numerical result of how calm you mind was during the meditation! The app displays also a curve showing progress by the minute. It tells every side step of your mind, and shows a flat and steady line when you are calm.
Measuring meditation supports in getting familiar with your own mind. When disturbing thoughts are visible, it is easier to tackle them. You can also verify how easy (or difficult) it is to de-stress for example in the middle of a working day. And, why not, putting together a meditation competition – with yourself.
Its one week to the 2nd day of Slush, when we will have a stand for demoing and a presentation on the black stage. There is a lot of excitement in the air.
The great news is that we got superb press from Good News From Finland! and were featured as one of the health companies to look out for at Slush.
But always something… Last Thursday we noticed some problems at our website. Our front page started to show orange colors (instead of the Moodmetric green), font sizes started changing, and sometimes the server would give a 500-Internal Server Error. As these problems became more frequent, we decided we had to move web hosts to a company that would be more reliable and with faster website load times.
There has been a lot of work in preparing the needed materials. Most of it is now in order: flyers and business cards are on their way, the roll-up canvas is being printed and just found the right color t-shirts. Still things to tick off the list!
Today’s blog post is about the future of meditation and the possibilities that wearables such as the Moodmetric ring present.
One of the main reasons that people don’t meditate (other than lack of time) is that they don’t know how and are unsure if they are doing it right. With the advancement of technology there have been several steps towards overcoming these obstacles. The introduction of meditation audio tapes made meditation easier and affordable since it wasn’t necessary to find someone to teach you meditation. The internet and meditation apps have naturally continued this transformation of making meditation more accessible.
Dan Harris highlights (in the video below) the science behind meditation and predicts that meditation will be the next big public health revolution. I believe that wearable technology such as the Moodmetric ring will be a part of this transformation by making it easier to track meditation sessions and by providing feedback.
Example meditation with the Moodmetric ring meditation app
Below is a screenshot of a 10-minute meditation I did after spending over 10 hours helping out at a video shoot for our upcoming campaign. Its worth pointing out that the final version of the app will look different, and the algorithms and accuracy will still be improved. This session was on the train ride on my way home, using mindfulness meditation (i.e. concentrating on my breath), and with gentle sounds of waves coming out of my headphones.The total score I received for the session from our algorithm is 78.6/100, which is my best one so far as I just recently re-started meditating.
When our current algorithm for measuring meditation is started, the first few minutes are spent making adjustments so that the rest of the data will be as accurate as possible. After 3 minutes you can start to see the effects of thoughts entering my mind as I am entering a meditative state. Especially after 8 minutes there is a significant drop in my meditative state, which was caused by an announcement that I was only two trains stops away from my home station. This prompted a thought: “did I remember to set the timing of the meditation correctly?” to come into my head, but I was able to let this go fairly quickly.
What do you think? Would you like to track your meditation sessions in this way? Are wearables going to change the popularity of meditation?
P.S. This blog will have a lot more awesome content related to meditation in the future. If you are interested get on the newsletter (on the right side of this post) and follow us on twitter.