Measuring acute stress response through physiological signals: towards a quantitative assessment of stress
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Social and medical problems associated with stress are increasing globally and seriously affect mental health and well-being. However, an effective stress-level monitoring method is still not available. This paper presents a quantitative method for monitoring acute stress levels in healthy young people using biomarkers from physiological signals that can be unobtrusively monitored. Two states were induced to 40 volunteers, a basal state generated with a relaxation task and an acute stress state generated by applying a standard stress test that includes five different tasks. Standard psychological questionnaires and biochemical markers were utilized as ground truth of stress levels. A multivariable approach to comprehensively measure the physiological stress response is proposed using stress biomarkers derived from skin temperature, heart rate, and pulse wave signals. Acute physiological stress levels (total-range 0–100 au) were continuously estimated every 1 min showing medians of 29.06 au in the relaxation tasks, while rising from 34.58 to 47.55 au in the stress tasks. Moreover, using the proposed method, five statistically different stress levels induced by the performed tasks were also measured. Results obtained show that, in these experimental conditions, stress can be monitored from unobtrusive biomarkers. Thus, a more general stress monitoring method could be derived based on this approach.
KeywordsStress measurement Stress biomarker Multimodal analysis Multivariable biomarker Acute stress TSST Unobtrusive physiological signals
This project has received funding from the European Union's Framework Programme for Research and Innovation Horizon 2020 (2014-2020) under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Grant Agreement No. 745755.
This research was supported by MINECO (FIS-PI12/00514 and TIN2014-53567-R) and by the Centro de Investigación Biomédica en Red sobre Bioingeniería, Biomateriales y Nanomedicina (CIBER-BBN) at the Instituto de Salud Carlos III de España.
Compliance with ethical standards
The UAB Ethics Committee approved the study protocol. Participants gave their written informed consent.
All procedures performed in this study involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.
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