Moodmetric Smart Ring – Finnish Know-how at Its Best

The Moodmetric smart ring is a prime example of Finnish innovation in the area of health technology. Vigofere Oy was set up as a company five years ago to commercialize the invention of Henry Rimminen, D.Sc., who had developed a smart ring which measures electrodermal activity (EDA). The ability to measure, outside of test laboratory conditions, the electricity that your body emits was revolutionary and 2013 saw the birth of the first prototype for further development.

Moodmetric smart ring black and turquoise
The Mooodmetric smart ring is a Finnish health tech innovation
How It All Begun

As a researcher at Aalto University, Henry Rimminen had worked on various sensors and methods for measuring physiological activity. Fitness trackers were a growing trend and devices based on measuring heart rate had been available for consumers for some time already.

Measuring electrodermal activity had been in research use for over a hundred years, but there were no practical applications of the measurement method on the market for consumers. It was this challenge that Henry Rimminen aimed to solve.

Inventor of the Moodmetric smart ring D.Sc. Henry Rimminen
Inventor of the Moodmetric smart ring D.Sc. Henry Rimminen

Our bodies react to external stimuli, both psychological and physical. This triggers off the sympathetic nervous system, the activity of which can be measured by how the eccrine (very tiny) sweat glands respond. These glands are dense on the palm of our hands, making them the optimum location to place the measuring sensor on.

EDA, or skin conductance, is a phenomenon which was discovered by two researchers, Charles Vigoroux and Richard Féré in the late 19th century. The name of the company, Vigofere Oy, was derived from the names of these two trailblazers.

The Challenges

In laboratory conditions EDA is measured by placing electrodes on the skin, usually on the tip of two fingers. For an accurate reading, no movement is allowed.

To develop a consumer product, Henry Rimminen had to overcome several challenges:
• Downsizing the measuring device from the size of a block of cheese to as small as possible.
• Instead of restricting the use of two fingers, the device had to be effortless to wear in everyday life.
• The results should not be affected by physical movement.
• Data transfer should be wireless.

Early prototypes of the Moodmetric smart ring
Early prototypes

In the autumn of 2015 the first commercial version of the Moodmetric smart ring was launched. It was the result of many iterative rounds of research and development. Once the electronics and measuring capability were deemed robust enough, designer Vesa Nilsson provided the ring its Scandinavian look and feel. Vesa Nilsson is famous for transformational and clean design. For further information, see Oz Jewel.

Data Management

One of the key principles Henry Rimminen followed right from the start was ease of use: It was imperative that the data the ring collects could be effortlessly retrieved, read and managed. Developing an application running on a smart phone was the next logical step.

The mobile application had to incorporate two basic elements:
• The index with the numeric values 1-100 is calculated from the raw data and show the alertness level of the person wearing the ring. High numeric figures signify stress or excitement, low figures a sense of calm.
• A round diagram demonstrates the fluctuation of the stress levels during 12-hour intervals. The use of colour make it easy to visualize, in one glance, the different levels of alertness, sliding from red for high levels on the outer peripheral of the diagram to the light greens of low stress levels on the inner circle of the diagram. For further information on the Moodmetric index and data interpretation, see here.

Vigofere Oy/Moodmetric today

Vigofere Oy has been in business for over five years and has a fully Finnish ownership. R&D is all done in Finland, as is the assembly and packing of the product too.

Moodmetric serves consumers, researchers, companies and health professionals globally.

The Moodmetric smart ring can be purchased from the Moodmetric webshop and the mobile application can be downloaded for free from the App Store and Google Play.

For companies and health professionals Moodmetric provides a measuring service for preventive stress management. Research institutes have been the first to utilize the technology and the ring in their work. For further information see our research page.

Stress is a positive thing, when it is well balanced. Our mission at Moodmetric is to help each and everyone to find their individual and optimum way to manage stress in all situations. Our goal is to significantly reduce the negative effects of chronic stress on individual, organizational and societal levels.
We at Moodmetric believe that the world can be saved from a state of chronic stress with Finnish health technology.

Buy the Moodmetric smart ring

Ask more about Moodmetric services for companies and occupational health: [email protected] / +358 44 309 6997

A high school wellbeing project aimed at better self awareness with a physiological stress measurement

In Lempäälä high school, Finland, a large wellbeing project has been initiated. It aims to give the students practical tools to manage both their physical and mental wellbeing better. The pilot group in the fall 2018 had the possibility for a 2 week Moodmetric measurement. Surprisingly high stress levels were measured both with students and teachers.

Society and the working life expectations are transforming. The world we and our kids live in is changing every day and this all requires constant adaptation. According to Psychology Today, the average high school kid today has the same level of anxiety as the average psychiatric patient in the early 1950’s.

Practical approach to better wellbeing of students

The teachers in Lempäälä high school, Finland, have understood that things cannot be done as in the past.  Finnish core curriculum for basic education is on excellent level and under continuous scrutiny to match the future requirements for today´s youth.

But in Lempäälä they want to cover more than the basic agenda. They want to support the students to find their strengths and hidden talents early on. Better self awareness and understanding of what is best for myself are needed in the world of information flow and continuous stimulus. Own place within society and working life seems to be more and more difficult to plan and the feeling of insecurity can be stressful. A good self understanding helps to make right choices in life.

Jarmo Lehtinen is a teacher who wants to equip the students in the best possible way for the future working life – and life. – We learn by doing, we execute a lot of practical projects and try new things, we are not here just for theoretizing. The students are creative and innovative in a group they know and can trust. In it, it´s easy to get to know also difficult and hard topics.

Students get active for their own wellbeing

In the fall 2018 personal wellbeing has been in focus. – They say that we should be careful not to put too much pressure on the students. But the future will be very demanding, there will be a lot of things that need adaptation. We are learning stress management proactively, says Jarmo Lehtinen. – In media they discuss a lot of how young people are tired of school. I’d sat it’s not just school, but all the other things beside it, too. The whole life can be tiring these days. That’s why we need to aim for balance in everything, Lehtinen continues.

Lempäälä high school has taken a holistic approach to wellbeing. Everybody knows by now the 8+8+8 model. It means that there should be work, free time and rest in right proportions in the day. Sleep, exercise and stress management have been covered in a project led by an external coach, Pertti Ratilainen.

Before the project the teachers agreed that there should be tangible measured data. This would be important both in getting a good picture on wellbeing of the students but also in ensuring funding for the project. The Moodmetric smart ring measurement was chosen for a 2 week period for everyone participating in the pilot project. The measurements were done in October and the pilot was concluded in December.

What was learned from the Moodmetric measurement?

Students Karita Tanni and Kristian Haapalehto were glad to take part in the measurement. – I really looked forward to the measurement, I wanted more information of how my body works. When I got the ring, it was really interesting to follow the real time data, Karita Tanni.

The Moodmetric measurement data shows what stresses out and what calms down. For high school students it was surprising how strongly the mind could react and how it could stay active for a long time. On the other hand, a good focus on homework was well shown as low Moodmetric numbers. Relaxed states were also measured e.g. while driving or spending time with friends. These were the positive learnings that the students learned to look for. – With the Moodmetric measurement, I found ways how not to stress, says Kristian Haapalehto.

Also the teachers got interested in the measurement

The Moodmetric measurement was originally intended just for the students, but the teachers wanted to participate as well. We wanted to show the principal, how stressful our work is, laughs Jarmo Lehtinen.  – For students it was a surprise how many loading factors there were outside of school. For teachers the challenges of everyday life were more familiar. Jarmo Lehtinen gives an example: -We have a puppy now, which already makes a big impact for how much sleep I am getting – or not getting!

According to the Moodmetric measurement the school days have been quite active for both the students and the teachers. This can be a sign of enthusiasm, and of the joy of learning new things. High levels can also be a sign of negative stress. This would mean high Moodmetric levels combined with general negative experienced mood. In these cases it would be the most important to look for moments of recovery.

The sleep

Many were surprised to see how different the nights were from one to another. – One night was not similar to another. The most valuable insight personally was how much I can do myself to sleep better. What I do during the day and evening has a huge impact on sleep. Watching a soccer game where my team finally lost was not the best preparing for the night, grins Lehtinen.

Do I have the willpower to change my habits?

Young adults are very well aware of the factors affecting their wellbeing. Good habits have been discussed at home – the parents remind of the bedtime and try to limit the time spent on smartphone.

Knowing what is good for us is not enough. The difficult part is to change habits for better wellbeing, says Pertti Ratilainen. -This is difficult especially to adults! Even a small increase to sleep or outdoor activity seems to be very difficult to do.

The students of the Lempäälä high school show that they can do better. During the project, 80% of the participants had made positive changes for their own wellbeing.

This is just a beginning, says Jarmo Lehtinen. – We are planning a much larger project for next semester. We aim to include every 1. and 2. year student to be active for their own wellbeing. The effects of the products we expect to see in learning and school work immediately. In long term, it would be great to provide these students practical wellbeing tools for the entire life.

Ask more about the Lempäälä high school wellbeing project:

Lempäälä high school: Jarmo Lehtinen [email protected]

Coach in the project: Pertti Ratilainen

Moodmetric: Niina Venho [email protected] +358 40 7104087

Good start to stress management

The starting level and objectives in stress management are as important as when maintaining physical condition. An employer wishes that every employee is with good health and well-being for the duration of their career. Most companies systematically take actions to promote this. When looking at stress management from an individual point of view, there are as many situations as people.

From a physical point of view someone might have as an objective to spend less time on a couch. Another wants to run a marathon or win a competition in weight lifting. Regarding the mental well-being, too many just would like to manage it until tomorrow.

“5 simple ways to live a less stressful life” or  “7 tips to managing daily stress”  are interesting titles and lead thoughts to how things are in ones´ life. Often these tips do not take into account the big picture nor is the experienced stress positive or negative.

The Moodmetric smart ring is the only wearable that shows the cognitive and emotional stress real time, and enables measuring also in long term.

The Moodmetric measurement data from several years has brought better understanding on stress

Analyzing the Moodmetric  data over the course of four years has helped us to better understand the fluctuating stress levels. The measurement periods are are from 2 weeks to years, which enables seeing how changes in life affect the stress levels. It has become clear, that a person’s starting point plays an important role in stress management.

1. People stress differently

Based on the Moodmetric measurement people can be roughly divided to two categories

  • Reaching high stress levels often and easily, both out of excitement and of negative stress. This means reacting often very strongly to emotional and cognitive stimuli.
  • Those who react more flatly, have less deviation from average values. Also these people can reach high Moodmetric-levels very fast, but they normally soon return back to equilibrium.

In the first group people might need to pay more attention to recovery every day. Sleep can be very deep when balance has been gained.

Example: A typical Moodmetric 24 hour measurement of a person easily reaching high stress levels. On the left the day from 6am to 6pm, on the right the night from 6pm to 6am.

In the second group the recovery during the night might not need to be as complete. This is because the load of the sympathetic nervous system is more modest during the day.

Example: A typical Moodmetric 24 hour measurement of a person with modest response to stress. On the left the day from 6am to 6pm, on the right the night from 6pm to 6am.

It is good to understand my own way to react to stress. There are as many ways as there are persons, and this can also change with different phases of life.

No way to react is better than the other. During evolution all types were needed – this has not changed. People acting differently are needed in social and occupational context. Diversity is good also regarding stress responses. 

2. You need to recover also from excitement

Also positive stress can wear out when going on for a long time. People devoted to their work, entrepreneurs, creative people and many others sometimes enjoy positive stress for too long. A dream job can also lead to burnout.a.

Devices and tests might tell a lot, but the most important is own experience. What is the situation in my life – the work, family, leisure, friends? Do I feel things are pretty good, or is some area of my life very demanding right now? If I say I am stressed, what does it feel like and how does it affect my life?

The Moodmetric smart ring is a support for individual stress management. It gives valuable measurement data and helps in better self understanding.

The measurement data always needs to be put in the context of own life. Same numbers can in different situations mean a different thing. Very low Moodmetric levels have been measured both with depressed and those who are simply always calm.

3. Good start to managing stress is to understand oneself and one’s life

What stresses me out, how do I calm down, what is my individual way to react? A short practice: Can you easily place yourself to the below fourfold table of wellbeing? No that your position might vary depending on whether you think of work, family or other part of life.

The wellbeing fourfold is for determining how high is the stress/arousal level, and is the state positive or negative. The Moodmetric measurement shows the stress level on a scale of 1 to 100. The app Analytics screen shows the chosen categories of life on a similar fourfold, when the user has defined the mood as pleasant/unpleasant. (Use the Diary feature for this.)

When defining where I am on the map, it is good to understand what was discussed in point 1: how do I react to stress. Some people mainly move in lower part of the picture, high levels of stress or excitement are not natural. Whether stress level is low or high, the right side of the fourfold is better in long term.

the Moodmetric measurement helps to manage stress better

The Moodmetric measurement helps to put oneself to the correct spot on the picture of own life and stress. What stresses me out, what not, what are my stress levels comparing the objective – ie. balance?

– What Moodmetric levels one should aim at?

No single measurement result is good or bad. In long term the objective is balance. This means that sleep and rest during the day compensate the activation of the sympathetic nervous system due to emotional or cognitive load. When the Moodmetric daily average number is about 50, it indicates balance of the autonomic nervous system.

Good start to managing stress is to acknowledge own situation as accurately as possible. Measured cognitive and emotional load is often both a support and a motivating factor.

 

The Moodmetric smart ring is available at the Moodmetric web shop.

Inquiries about the Moodmetric services for organizations: [email protected]

Read more about the Moodmetric company measurement at HERE Technologies. 

 

 

HERE Technologies is showing the way also in stress management

The Tampere unit provides the Moodmetric measurement to the whole crew. The measurement is done in co-operation with the occupational healthcare.

HERE Technologies is a global company providing mapping and location services with 9000 employees. About one percentage of the personnel is located in Finland and the vast majority of them in Tampere.

In the early spring 2018 the Tampere unit started discussions with the occupational health how to support the employees’ mental wellbeing proactively. Support for physical wellbeing had been offered for a while already, but Jari Syrjärinne, the unit manager, wanted a more holistic approach to employee wellbeing.

– We are a fast growing company and want to maintain our agility and positive drive. Almost all of us have a background in a big corporation, where fast growth first brings speed and unpredictable situations, but may eventually result in rigidity. We want to help our staff to keep up with the pace without compromizing the job wellbeing, Jari Syrjärinne says.

Jari Syrjärinne, the Unit Manager of HERE Technologies (Photo Moodmetric)

– Another important reason for starting the Moodmetric measurements was the objective data it provides. There is a lot of technology for assessing physical health, but the available methods to understand mental health are mainly subjective surveys. This is the first measurement that enables easy and almost insivible way to assess stress and recovery also in long term,  Jari Syrjärinne continues.

HERE’s occupational health physician, Leena Pesonen, was introduced to Moodmetric measurement through another customer and suggested the measurement to HERE as well. – I think the service seemed worth trying and wanted to present it to HERE. There is not that much technology available to be used in occupational health for assessing stress and recovery objectively that motivates the user for better stress management at the same time. I tried the ring myself, and I was impressed. I recognize my stress and recovery reactions very well in my body and it was great to verify that in the graphs of the Moodmetric app, says Leena Pesonen from a Finnish healthcare provider Terveystalo.

Not just a perk for the management team

The strong willingness to invest in employee wellbeing seems evident at HERE.Very often similar services are only provided to the management team or groups that are most active to request organizational and personal development activities. It is worth noting as well that HERE decided to book a follow up Moodmetric measurement right away. –  With this first measurement round we want to find out what is the starting level for HERE Tampere. In September when the last group of participants has completed the measurement we are able to reflect and discuss together what kind of wellbeing interventions are needed in the upcoming year. In the summer 2019 we will redo the measurements, Jari Syrjärinne says.

HERE decided to buy 20 rings and the Moodmetric measurement is done in three rounds for the whole staff. Between the measurements the rings are available for the personnel for free use.

Participating in the Moodmetric measurement is voluntary, but HERE hopes that everyone will seize the opportunity. – Usually the ones who are the most eager to participate, are the ones who already pay attention to their wellbeing. To plan truly effective workplace interventions,we need to be able to motivate everyone to take part in the measurement, Jari Syrjärinne says.

In May, HERE’s occupational health physician and Moodmetric’s representative held an info session where they talked about the Moodmetric measurement, its scientific background and how the measurement is linked with HERE’s occupational healthcare. The first measurement group was fully booked immediately after the info.

Great start at HERE

HERE is the first organization where the Moodmetric measurement is done in co-operation with the occupational health. During the two week measurement the participants learn about their stress and recovery levels by following the data on their mobile phone. The participants also get to try how different situations or work tasks show in the stress data. With the tips and advice from the introductory lession, the participants can engage in job crafting to reach better balance with stress and recovery. If the participants notice excessive stress load and suspect chronic stress, they have the opportunity to contact straight the occupational healthcare after the measurement. Objective data enhances the dialogue between the employee and the occupational health physician.

HERE’s first Moodmetric feedback session was in May. The group was happy to hear that they achieved the all time best* Moodmetric group average. – Now it’s really interesting to see what kind of group level stress averages the next two groups will have and do we need to strenghten our stress management skills as an organization. Next summer we will get feedback on how we have succeeded, Jari Syrjärinne concludes.

 

*Moodmetric-measurement is not a competition. “All time best” refers to a value that indicates a good balance of stress and recovery of the measured group. The daily Moodmetric average of 50 indicates a balanced autonomous nervous system.

Do you study stress, customer experience, attention or decision making?

The Moodmetric measurement gives accurate and real time data on cognitive and emotional load of an individual. Use cases below give a snapshot on what kind of research it can be applied to. These are just a handful of examples. Electrodermal activity is a signal with great and for most unused potential in field research.

Stress measurement with Moodmetric

Positive stress is a good thing and when in control, it takes us forward. Chronic stress reduces productivity, creativity and job satisfaction and it is a risk for physical and psychological health. It is not easy to catch signals early and stress might not be detected before it has reached harmful levels.

Questionnaires are subjective and bound to a certain moment. Preventive stress management needs continuous and long term measurement. The Moodmetric ring is intended for weeks and months of use. The mobile app offers a real time view which enables insights that can be actioned immediately.

Even though the Moodmetric measurement is primarily intended for use at occupational health, the real time measurement enables several kinds of research. Below are some example use cases to give a picture of it´s possibilities:

Customer experience

A customer is testing a new shopping center virtually. The center is equipped with innovative implementations, including parking, navigating inside the center, paying in the shops (only mobile payment) etc. The pilot customers´ opinion have a major significance on the final drawings and the pilot is heavily studied. The Moodmetric measurement shows instantly and in real time the pain points – when the experience is getting from smooth to troublesome. The Moodmetric levels increase in seconds when the customer is perplexed.

A much simpler example would be e.g. driving through a car washing lane. How many of the customers actually get terrified inside, with not way of getting out in the middle? Could this be eased out somehow?

The Moodmetric measurement can be used to tracking stress levels in any environment, inside or out in the woods. It suits to observing a person in different situations, like choosing clothes. Which print makes the person react?

Gaming

Mobile and desktop games can be extremely agitating. Chasing, fighting, racing and performing dangerous tasks is enervating. The sympathetic nervous system of the player is active, as the body does not understand that the threat is just an illusion created by the game developer.

A game can also be soothing, like puzzles. Focus is needed but vigilance not.

What kind of a game is yours and what is the target audience? What if you could design games that really calm down the sympathetic nervous system – a game that you could wholeheartedly recommend e.g. for kids with concentration difficulties?

Pay attention! – Study focus with Moodmetric

We make better decisions, our movements are correct and precise, and we make better analysis when we pay attention. Really pay attention by not letting noises, lights, phone, emails or the smell of lunch distract us.

The Moodmetric index of 1 to 100 tells our arousal level. When focused, the level is below 30, in most cases below 20. Full focus on the task at hand might show a steady level of 12 with almost a straight electrodermal activity curve on the Moodmetric mobile app. The person is far from being sleepy (although in the evening at the sofa the numbers might be exactly the same), but fully focused.

This does not necessarily need an isolated environment. Most people can find their way to reach focus no matter the surroundings. But as it is not easy, many companies design spaces and areas inside their offices that enhance concentration.

Sports

What kind of training methods provide the best results? The Moodmetric measurement makes it possible to better understand what level of focus the athlete reaches. Interventions such as mental exercises can tested and found out the ones with the best results for improving concentration. The measurement also provides insights as to when recovery from practice is sufficient. The app diary helps to analyse which activities should be toned down or avoided in order to benefit optimally from training.

 

Interested to know more about the Moodmetric measurement and why the Moodmetric ring is especially well suited to measure electrodermal activity?

Read our recently published articles starting with:

PART 1: Fight or flight response

Applications in research and ongoing projects:

Research

Or contact us directly:
Niina Venho / CEO
niina. [email protected]

PART 4: The Moodmetric ring stress measurement and understanding the data

This article series tell about stress and ways to measure it. Parts 1 and 2 describe the fight or flight reaction and how the body reacts to chronic stress. Methods for long term monitoring are presented in part 3. In this article we explain the Moodmetric ring measurement and how to interpret the data.

The Moodmetric smart ring measures electrodermal activity. It detects skin conductance with the band of the ring that works as electrodes. The band consists of two silver coated steel rings, and an insulator band in between them. 

Electrodes need to get a good contact with an area on skin where the eccrine sweat gland density is high. This varies from 400/cm2 on the palm to about 80/cm2 on the upper arm. A ring form for the Moodmetric sensor has been chosen to reach the best possible accuracy. The measurement point is on the palm side of the finger and at best the signal is unbroken.

The ring measures continuously and stores the data inside the ‘stone’. The mobile app does not need to be on, nor the phone near the ring. When the app is opened and the calendar icon chosen, the ring sends the data to the app via bluetooth connection. The measurement and data storing to the ring continue immediately. The real-time signal can be followed any time with the app.

Research by the Finnish Institute of Occupational health (2015) shows that the signal of the Moodmetric ring is comparable to that of a laboratory device. The ring is applicable for field studies.

The Moodmetric signal is real time

The Moodmetric signal is the violet curve on the mobile app that can be observed real-time. It is the raw measurement signal but auto scaled in order to have the whole amplitude visible even during strong reactions.

The curve enables analysis of single reactions. Even a thought can cause a peak: excitement, idea, awe – each reaction forms a peak within a 1-2 second physiological delay.

Interpreting the raw signal requires expertise in the measurement method and understanding the possible sources of error.

The Moodmetric index is easy to interpret

The electrodermal activity (EDA) raw signal is difficult to interpret and prone to errors. Strong reactions can easily be spotted on the curve,  but mathematical methods are needed for further analysis.

The Moodmetric index or the Moodmetric level has been developed to provide accurate EDA measurement data that is easy to interpret. The algorithms count an index from 1 to 100 so that 1 is the lowest the person can reach. This is possible e.g. in deep sleep. 100 is the maximum arousal, strongest possible reaction of the person. Finding the min and max takes about 12 hours, which is the calibration period. The ring can be re-calibrated e.g. when changing from one user to another.

The Moodmetric index/level tells the activity level of the person at a certain moment, looking at a few minutes´ time window. The level does not indicate single reactions but changes fast if the arousal level of the person increases or decreases rapidly. E.g. increasing is first seen in growing amplitude and raising trend of the Moodmetric curve, then in higher Moodmetric level.

It is easy to get to 100. What is more interesting is to make rehearsals that aim to calm the mind, to get the index as low as possible.

In counting the Moodmetric index, the algorithms minimize the effect of finger’s movement and the skin normal moisture level on the measurement. The index is comparable between users. If two persons are at a same situation it is possible to observe which one is calmer.

There is no momentary optimal value

It is normal that the Moodmetric level fluctuates between 1 and 100 during the day. No momentary value is good or bad.

Important is also to know, that the Moodmetric measurement does not tell whether a reaction is positive or negative. The Moodmetric ring is not an emotion detector.

The fluctuation of stress levels is individual

There are people who react fast and strong, while others respond more calmly. For instance creative people are often very prone to stimulus and they get a lot of new ideas. This can be seen in high Moodmetric levels as well as big fluctuation. A person doing work that requires deep and long concentration might have low Moodmetric levels throughout the working day.

The levels can be high due to excitement and energy, or low due to good focus. All this is positive. The levels might also be high due to pressure and lack of control at work. Low figures in turn can tell of boredom or even depression. The measurement data always needs the ring wearer´s own perception of the situation. No one else can tell whether the 100 on the mobile app tells of excitement or irritation.

A good team is heterogeneous also by the way they react

At workplace it is good to have people with different ways to react. A team with individuals that all have a very mild or a very strong natural way to react, probably is not as productive as a more heterogeneous team.

The Moodmetric measurement helps to understand individuals and personal ways to react. This is important from wellbeing point of view. We should rather challenge ourselves keeping in mind our own physiology and environment, than compare to others.

The Moodmetric daily average level is the most important

The Moodmetric smart ring measures the sympathetic nervous system reactions on a scale from 1 to 100. Counting presumes balance. When the daily average value is around 50, there is enough recovery in correlation to load. The Moodmetric ring users notice the same: the daily average is normally 45 to 55 depending on how well daily load is compensated by rest and sleep.

Levels and fluctuation during the day can be very different between two persons. Both might still feel well and with plenty of energy. If high daily figures are combined with very restful sleep, can the daily average level be the same as with a person with much lower numbers during daytime. 

Below the different persons’ consecutive day and night views, where the daily average for both arrived at 46. In this example both reached good, quite a low average, but with very different daily levels:

The daily average of the Moodmetric index is the more informative, the more the person uses the ring. It is easier to analyse own balance of load and recovery when the ring is worn also during the night.

Feedback from the Moodmetric ring users tells that own perception is in line with the measurement. If the daily average is around 50, the situation and energy levels are normal. Values over 50 for a long time go hand in hand with the feeling of overload and weakened wellbeing. Very low daily figures might indicate depression.

The Moodmetric measurement helps the user to gain balance between load and recovery. The sources of stress and ways to recover are individual. For this reason the measurement data always needs own evaluation. Categorizing and analyzing own life e.g. with the help of the Moodmetric app Diary feature is a way to more balanced life.

The complete set of 5 articles explains the Moodmetric measurement, science behind and the applications:

  1. Part 1: Fight or flight response
  2. Part 2: Chronic stress – The brain concludes that we are continuously in danger
  3. Part 3: Tools for long term and continuous stress measurement
  4. Part 4: The Moodmetric ring stress measurement and understanding the data
  5. Part 5: The Moodmetric measurement in preventive occupational health 

PART 3: Tools for long term and continuous stress measurement

Stress can be measured in several ways in clinical setting. The measurements done in laboratory  give versatile and accurate information. But as we do not live in a laboratory, they can not interpret the changes in our daily lives. Researchers and individuals need tools for long term and continuous stress measurement.

For decades there has been reliable methods available to measure stress in laboratory setting. These methods  include heart and heart rate variability measurement performed with several accurate sensors. Other heart related tests are blood flow measurements with long term registration of electrocardiography and blood pressure. Additionally there are tests on the autonomic nervous system and biochemical tests. The biochemical tests include hormonal and immunological definitions of blood, saliva and urine.

While servicing hospitals and research laboratories, these methods can not give a full picture on person´s stress level. Chronic stress develops over a long period of time and recovery can take weeks and months. User friendly methods that fit to daily life are needed to measure stress in long term.

Non-intrusive wearable devices are the solution for long term measurements

People are not willing to make huge compromises when it comes to health and wellbeing interventions. Activity trackers and other wellbeing devices have brought everyone the possibility to understand own physiology. Some of these equipment also draw conclusions on the stress level of the user.

Physiological measurement methods to follow stress levels for weeks or months are not yet available for clinical use. At the moment continuous and long term stress measurement can be done by measuring heart rate variability or electrodermal activity.

Heart rate variability (HRV)

A healthy heart is not a metronome. Heart rate variability means the variation between consecutive heart beats. At rest the variation can be from a few tens upto a hundred millisecons.

Why the heart rate varies

Heart rate variability is a way for our body to regulate optimal blood flow to the brain. The more variation there is between the beats, the bigger the activity of the parasympathetic system. This means that the recovery functions of the body work well.

When action is needed the rest-and-digest functions of the body are shut off. Heart rate variability gets smaller for instance during the fight or flight response that activates the sympathetic nervous system. The heart pounds with regular beats. This is because in a fight the purpose is to stay alive and not fine tune bodily functions.

Factors affecting HRV

The heart rate variability is affected mostly by age, gender and pulse. The higher the age and the resting heart rate, the smaller the variation. Additional factors are physical and mental stress, smoking, alcohol and coffee, overweight, blood pressure and glucose level, infectious agents and depression. Also the inherited genes affect the heart rate variability significantly. Individual variation is large and therefore there are no clear set limits. During measurements it is important to pay attention to rest and physical load. When the heart rate goes up due to physical strain, the heart rate variability decreases.

Counting heart rate variability and accuracy of measurement

Heart rate variability as a phenomenon is known since 1960’s and applied in health care for a long time. The most accurate way for measurement is the electrocardiography (ECG or EKG). For wellbeing uses there are several devices available, out of which most accurate are those measuring from chest. Wrist and finger measurements suffer in accuracy especially with high heart rates due to movement of the measured spot.

Heart rate variability is measured by calculating the time interval between heartbeats. This is normally done by looking at the R spikes on an electrocardiogram, the R-R interval. Mathematical methods are needed in the analysis of the heart rate variability. With advanced algorithms it is possible make deductions about a person´s physical and mental load.

Heart rate variability is high at rest, when the person is young and healthy and with a good physical condition. Low HRV might indicate stress for a healthy adult.

Electrodermal activity (EDA)

also: galvanic skin response (GSR), skin conductance response (SCR)

A physiological phenomenon known since over hundred years is electrodermal activity. Psychological factors affecting the conductance of skin was found almost simultaneously by a French neuroscientist Féré (1888) and a Russian physiologist Tarchanoff (1889). The first observations had been done already over ten years prior by a French threrapist Vigouroux. Out of several naming conventions for the phenomenon  the electrodermal activity (EDA) prevailed.

Electrodermal activity from physiological point of view

The skin  becomes a better conductor of electricity when the eccrine sweat glands process sweat to skin surface. Eccrine glands are innervated by the sympathetic nervous system and are part of the fight or flight response system. This makes electrodermal activity (EDA) important from stress measurement point of view. The major reason for it’s importance lies in the fact that EDA is solely mediated by the sympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system, thus being not subjected to parasympathetic influences as most of the other autonomic measures (1).

EDA measurement

There has been equipment available for laboratory level EDA measurement since founding of the phenomenon. Usually the measurement is done from palms or fingers with electrodes that are connected to an amplifier.

An unprocessed EDA signal is very sensitive to movement, so in most test settings the subject is requested to stay still. In the past this has limited the EDA measurement mainly to laboratory.

Lately the wearable technology development has made improvements also to EDA studies. Advanced algorithms and signal processing have made it possible to compensate the movement artifacts, and wearable sensors have been brought to market.

Measuring EDA as a continuous long-term measurement in a non-intrusive way is desirable for many different fields of research and diagnostics (2). Studies in psychology and behavioral sciences benefit when the measurements can be done in normal daily life, outside laboratory. Additional advantage is that wearable technology enable research with moderate equipment cost.

Measurement units, parameters and accuracy

EDA measurement registers the inverse of the electrical resistance ‘ohm’ between two points on the skin – i.e., the conductivity ‘siemens’ of the skin in that location (3). The recorded EDA signal has two components. The slowly varying tonic component of the EDA signal represents the current skin conductance level (SCL). The skin conductance response (SCR) corresponds to sympathetic arousal (1). It is a spike-like component whose amplitude and frequency indicate of the person´s activation level. EDA does not tell whether the person is experiencing something positive or negative. Raise in activation level can be due to any strong emotion such as excitement, joy, fear and anger.

The accuracy of the measurement depends on the equipment used, stability of the environment and the point of measurement. The preferred sites for EDA measurements are located in the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet (4). Age and gender affect EDA somewhat. External temperature and movements of the person have an effect on the measurement signal that needs processing to draw the right conclusions.

EDA measurement can be very accurate also in wearable form. Field studies with these devices are possible already today.

Applications of EDA

Electrodermal activity has a lot of clinical and practical applications, with polygraph one of the most well known. In psychological research the phenomenon has been applied since it was first found. Later the uses have been across many fields e.g. gaming and user experience, marketing research and in top sports.

The next article in this series tells how the Moodmetric ring measures electrodermal activity

References:
(1) Electrodermal Activity (Boucsein, 2012)

(2) Feasibility of an Electrodermal Activity Ring Prototype as a Research Tool (Torniainen, Cowley, Henelius, Lukander, Pakarinen, 2015)

(3) A short review and primer on electrodermal activity in human computer interaction applications (Benjamin Cowley, Jari Torniainen, 2016)

(4) Electrodermal Activity Sensor for Classification of Calm/Distress Condition (Zangróniz et al., 2017)

The complete set of 5 articles explains the Moodmetric measurement, science behind and the applications:

  1. Part 1: Fight or flight response
  2. Part 2: Chronic stress – The brain concludes that we are continuously in danger
  3. Part 3: Tools for long term and continuous stress measurement
  4. Part 4: The Moodmetric ring stress measurement and understanding the data
  5. Part 5: The Moodmetric measurement in preventive occupational health 

PART 2: Chronic stress – The brain concludes that we are continuously in danger

The autonomic nervous system regulates the body functions as situations require. Recovery and healing systems are most active during sleep.  After lunch it is important to digest the food and use the nutrients efficiently. When facing imminent threat, the immune system and food processing are not important. They are shut off, to use all the possible energy for muscles that are needed in the fight.

The autonomic nervous system works largely unconsciously. It is responsible for many vital functions such as blood pressure and temperature regulation, digestion and function of the adrenal cortex.  It works through the neural network that controls the heart and other organs. The autonomic nervous system keeps us alive without us knowingly doing anything about it.

The autonomic nervous system consists of two complementary parts, the sympathetic and parasympathetic.  When active, the parasympathetic nervous system slows down the heart beat, enhances digestion and healing. It strives to calm the body down and keep the vital functions stable.

The sympathetic part is responsible for preparing the body for action, and it´s fibers can innervate tissues in almost every organ.  The sympathetic nervous system activates in stressful situations and in hard physical strain.

The both parts of the autonomic nervous systems normally work in good cooperation, but as a seesaw.  When the other gets active, the other slows down. For instance in acute stress reaction the sympathetic nervous system works in full speed in an instant. The working of the parasympathetic part seizes and e.g. digestion almost stops. A perfect operation of the sympathetic and parasympathetic part enable an accurate and fast regulation of our internal mechanisms in any situation.

The fight or flight response is a way for us to cope in a rapidly escalating threatening situation. At the time of cavemen the case was normally quickly closed, the fights did not last for weeks or months. For a today´s human the stress reaction might be a permanent state, and the parasympathetic nervous system does not have the chance to return our body to rest.

In long term stress the cortisol levels in our body are continuously high

Chronic stress keeps the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis active. It is like an idling motor, pumping stress hormones such as cortisol to our system.

Cortisol helps us to confront the threat but it simultaneously shuts down the immune system. From the evolution point of view this made sense: if a crocodile attacks we can shut down all the functions in the body that are not needed to flee or fight. The immune defense weakens when we are continuously stressed, and this might lead to a series of infections. The stress factors also play a role in the development of autoimmune diseases, heart and blood vessel diseases and cancer. Continuous boosts of adrenaline can harm blood vessels, raise blood pressure and increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases.

Worrying and fear increase our mental load and can further activate the sympathetic nervous system. Physical symptoms persist,  recovery via rest and sleep further slow down.

Heavy cognitive and emotional load during recovery from an illness might be as bad for our body as physical exercise. Our body would choose to put the work aside when being ill.

Chronic Stress affects memory, concentration and appetite

In a state of chronic stress the brain thinks that a physical fight starts any time. With cortisol our body works to have a lot of energy available. It enhances appetite and extra energy storing  with might lead to weight gain.

Cortisol is also released to hippocampus that is central in memorizing and learning. A stressed out person has difficulties in learning and emotion regulation. There are often concentration difficulties and memory problems.

Burnout

Chronic stress can not go on forever without consequences. Burnout is a severe disturbance in our vital mechanisms. Simultaneous psychological, neural, metabolic and immune system collapse might be so total, that a complete recovery is very slow or even impossible.

The best cure for burnout is prevention. It can be difficult to understand the graveness of the situation. People tend to compare themselves and their working rhythms to others and to pretend that everything is fine. Just a moment before collapsing things might seem normal from the outside.

Talk with friends and family, colleagues, your superior or a health care professional if you feel  that the load is too high.

Sleep is a good indicator.

Sleep, brain and stress

When the life is in balance, we recover from acute stress reactions and also longer burdensome periods. These take often place in life changes: a newcomer in the family, moving house, study or work project that is exceptionally demanding. We overcome these challenges when the amount of recovery is sufficient.

Sleep is our most important recovery function and an indicator of balance. Weeks and months with disturbed sleep is a sign of stress, and sleep deprivation further lowers down our resilience.

The brain needs sleep. During sleep many things take place that the sleeper is not aware of. A daily cleanup is made in order for us to feel physically and mentally well.

There is no health without sleep. The importance of proper recovery becomes clear after a period of poor sleeping. At worst the life is just coping. Unfortunately this is reality for so many, that we have begun to think it is normal not to sleep enough. But it is not.

When we most nights sleep well and feel brisk in the morning, our body and mind are always prepared to perform well. We are in balance.

The complete set of 5 articles explains the Moodmetric measurement, science behind and the applications:

  1. Part 1: Fight or flight response
  2. Part 2: Chronic stress – The brain concludes that we are continuously in danger
  3. Part 3: Tools for long term and continuous stress measurement
  4. Part 4: The Moodmetric ring stress measurement and understanding the data
  5. Part 5: The Moodmetric measurement in preventive occupational health