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Front. Behav. Neurosci. | doi: 10.3389/fnbeh.2019.00088

An investigation on bilateral asymmetry in electrodermal activity

 Christian Tronstad1*,  Stefan Sütterlin1, 2, Andreas Bjørhei3, Filip Trolle3,  Saeed Muhammad3, Håvard Kalvøy1,  Slawomir Wojniusz1, 3 and Oliver Pabst4
  • 1Oslo University Hospital, Norway
  • 2Østfold University College, Norway
  • 3OsloMet – Oslo Metropolitan University, Norway
  • 4University of Oslo, Norway

The Multiple Arousal Theory (Picard et al., 2016) was proposed to explain retrospective observations of bilateral differences in electrodermal activities occurring in threat-related high-stake situations. The theory proposes different cortical and subcortical structures to be involved in the processing of various facets of emotional states. Systematic investigations of this effect are still scarce. This study tested the prediction of bilateral electrodermal effects in a controlled laboratory environment where electrodermal activity was recorded bilaterally during normal activity and two stress-tasks in 25 healthy volunteers. A visual search stress task with a performance-related staircase algorithm ensuring intersubjectively comparable stress levels across individuals. After completion of the task, a sense of ownership of an attractive price was created and loss aversion introduced to create a high-stake situation. Confirmation of the theory should satisfy the hypothesis of a bilateral difference in electrodermal activity between the dominant and non-dominant hand, which is larger during high-stake stressors than during low-stake stressors. The bilateral difference was quantified and compared statistically between the two stress-tasks, revealing no significant difference between them nor any significant difference between the stress tasks and the period of normal activity. Subgroup analysis of only the participants with maximum self-rating of their desire to win the price (n=7) revealed neither any significant difference between the two tasks nor between the stress-tasks and the period of normal activity. Although the theory was not confirmed by this study, eight cases suggestive of bilateral difference within the recordings were identified and are presented. Because the study is limited in using one of several possible operationalizations of the phenomenon, it is not possible to draw a general conclusion on the theory. Nevertheless, the study might contribute to a better understanding and encourage systematic review and hypothesis development regarding this new theory. Possible explanations and suggestions for future pathways to systematically investigate the Multiple Arousal Theory are discussed.

Keywords: Electrodermal acitivity, emotional arousal, Sympathetic Nervous System, Skin conductace, bilateral asymmetry

Received: 02 Oct 2018; Accepted: 11 Apr 2019.

Edited by:

Jee Hyun Kim, Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health, Australia

Reviewed by:

Henrique Sequeira, Lille University of Science and Technology, France
Christian E. Deuter, Charité Medical University of Berlin, Germany  

Copyright: © 2019 Tronstad, Sütterlin, Bjørhei, Trolle, Muhammad, Kalvøy, Wojniusz and Pabst. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Dr. Christian Tronstad, Oslo University Hospital, Oslo, Norway, christian.tronstad@gmail.com