Electrodermal Mechanisms: A Critique of the Two-Effector Hypothesis and a Proposed Replacement

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Abstract

Although response amplitude and response rate have served as the primary electrodermal measures in behavioral research, several lines of evidence have given hope that in addition to these quantitative indicators, electrodermal activity might provide qualitative indices as well. When one examines the behavioral correlates of the electrodermal reflex, it becomes evident that EDA may be associated with very different adaptations, e.g. tactual exploration, grasping, thermoregulation, or ambulation (Darrow, 1927; Edelberg, 1973a; Fowles, 1986; Boucsein, 1988), as well as the abstracted representation of such actions, for example information intake. The reviews elsewhere in this volume by Roy et al and by Sequeira-Martinho and Roy, covering the neurophysiological systems underlying these adaptations, reveal the existence in the CNS of at least two relatively independent descending pathways that control electrodermal activity (EDA), one of reticular origin under cortical and sensory influences (Bloch, 1965), the other a direct corticospinal system, suggesting that different cutaneous adjustments may follow activation of these respective areas. If true, a two-effector system may be an effective means of accomplishing such adjustments.