Galvanic Skin Response as a Simple Physiology Lab Teaching Tool- An Alternative Indicator of Sympathetic Arousal

Background: Sympathetic arousal response due to rewarding emotion may not be considered threat to the well-being but such arousal response evoked by fear or punishment can be stressful. When such changes are recorded in lab as biological signals, induced with appropriate stimulus, the observed response may serve as a good indicator of homeostatic alteration. In this study, skin conductance was utilized to record sympathetic response for cognitive load, by application of simple subtraction task.

Objective: To detect sympathetic arousal by utilization of galvanic skin response during mental arithmetic task.

Method: Total of eighty two subjects, forty two female and forty male participated in the study. Twenty two subjects were provided mental task to record skin conductance. In sixty subjects, galvanic skin response, pulse rate, respiratory rate and temperature were recorded by appropriate transducers to obtain baseline and task response to detect differential recordings. Subjects performed the mental exercise of arithmetic task (MAT) with transducer placed in upper limbs. Mean of averages for respective variables were statistically calculated from obtained recordings.

Results: For measured galvanic skin response, 57 subjects showed increased skin conductance (rise in amplitude) whereas, 25 subjects had no rise in amplitude (“A peak”) while performing the mental arithmetic task, when compared to control recording. However, in 20 subjects, pulse rate and respiratory rate showed significant rise though, the change in the skin conductance was not significant.

Conclusion: Galvanic skin response is useful for demonstration of sympathetic activation induced by simple mental subtraction task, and can be utilized along with vital parameters mentioned in this study to discuss in vivo variation that exist as differential for core and superficial sympathetic outflow among individuals.

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