Measuring Physiological Stress Using Heart-Related Measures

  • An Luo
  • Siyi Deng
  • Michael J. Pesavento
  • Joseph N. MakEmail author
Conference paper
Part of the IFMBE Proceedings book series (IFMBE, volume 64)


Stress is an emergency response of our organism. Although stress may be necessary in case of life threatening situations, most of the stress experienced by modern day human is misplaced, and spur from evolutionary pressure that is not relevant in our societies. Finding ways to monitor, control, and reduce stress has become critical for the well-being of human societies. For the purpose of developing real time applications to assess and reduce stress for the general public using portable devices, we designed an experiment to trigger stress in laboratory conditions. Our results show that we successfully induced stress and that heart-related measures such as heart rate, heart rate variability and spectral estimation based on heart beats were reliable indicators of stress.



We wish to thank Arnaud Delorme for his assistance on experimental design and data analysis. We also wish to thank Winnie So for collecting all the data.

Conflict of Interest

The authors are previous or current employees of NeuroSky and may be entitled to stock options as part of the standard NeuroSky benefits package. The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


  1. 1.
    R. M. Lawrence, “Stress management in work settings: a critical review of the health effects,” American Journal of Health Promotion, vol. 11, no. 2, pp. 112–135, Nov., 1996.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    J. W. Mason, “A review of psychoendocrine research on the sympathetic-adrenal medullary system,” Psychosomatic Medicine, vol. 30, no. 5 (Suppl), pp. 631–653, Sep., 1968.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    S. S. Dickerson, M. E. Kemeny, “Acute stressors and cortisol reactivity: a meta-analytic review,” Psychosomatic Medicine, vol. 54, pp. 105–123, 2002.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    C. Kirschbaum, K. M. Pirke, D. H. Hellhammer, “The ‘trier social stress test’–a tool for investigating psychobiological stress responses in a laboratory setting,” Neuropsychobiology, vol. 28, no. 1–2, pp. 76–81, 1993.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    N. Hjortskov, D. Rissén, A. K. Blangsted, N. Fallentin, U. Lundberg, K. Søgaard, “The effect of mental stress on heart rate variability and blood pressure during computer work,” European Journal of Applied Physiology, vol. 92, no. 1–2, pp. 84–89, Feb., 2004.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    C. Schubert, M. Lambertz, R. A. Nelesen, W. Bardwell, J. B. Choi, J. E. Dimsdale, “Effects of stress on heart rate complexity—a comparison between short-term and chronic stress,” Biol Psychol., vol. 80, no. 3, pp. 325–332, Mar., 2009.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    T. G. Vrijkotte, L. J. van Doornen, E. J. de Geus, “Effects of work stress on ambulatory blood pressure, heart rate, and heart rate variability,” Hypertension, vol. 35, no. 4, pp. 880–886, Apr. 2000.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    L. Tonello, F. B. Rodrigues, J. W. Souza, C. S. Campbell, A. S. Leicht, D. A. Boullosa, “The role of physical activity and heart rate variability for the control of work related stress,” Front Physiol., vol. 21, no. 5, article 67, Feb. 2014.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    R. Orsila, M. Virtanen, T. Luukkaala, M. Tarvainen, P. Karjalainen, J. Viik, M. Savinainen, C. H. Nygård, “Perceived mental stress and reactions in heart rate variability–a pilot study among employees of an electronics company,” Int. J. Occup. Saf. Ergon, vol. 14, no. 3, pp. 275–283, 2008.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    M. Walser, R. Fischer, T. Goschke, C. Kirschbaum, F. Plessow, “Intention retrieval and deactivation following an acute psychosocial stressor,” PLoS One, vol. 8, no. 12:e85685, De. 2013.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    N. P. Bobra, Z. Wang, W. Zhang, A. Luo, “A high-quality, low-energy, small-size system-on-chip (SoC) solution enabling ECG mobile applications,” in Proc. Industrial Electronics Society, IECON 2013 – 39th Annual Conference of the IEEE, Vienna, 2013, pp. 8406–8409.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    R. Wilcox, “Modern statistics for the social and behavioral sciences: a practical introduction. CRC press, 2011.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    M. P. Tarvainen, J. P. Niskanen, J. A. Lipponen, P. O. Ranta-Aho, P. A. Karjalainen, “Kubios HRV–heart rate variability analysis software,”, Comput Methods Programs Biomed., vo. 113, no. 1, pp. 210–20, 2014.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • An Luo
    • 1
  • Siyi Deng
    • 1
  • Michael J. Pesavento
    • 2
  • Joseph N. Mak
    • 3
    Email author
  1. 1.NeuroSky Inc.San JoseUSA
  2. 2.NeuroSky Inc.San FranciscoUSA
  3. 3.NeuroSky (Hong Kong) Co., Ltd.Pak Shek Kok, Tai Po, New TerritoriesHong Kong

Personalised recommendations