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Engert V.,Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences | Merla A.,Institute of Advanced Biomedical Technologies ITAB | Merla A.,University of Chieti Pescara | Grant J.A.,Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences | And 4 more authors.
PLoS ONE | Year: 2014

High resolution thermal infrared imaging is a pioneering method giving indices of sympathetic activity via the contact-free recording of facial tissues (thermal imprints). Compared to established stress markers, the great advantage of this method is its non-invasiveness. The goal of our study was to pilot the use of thermal infrared imaging in the classical setting of human stress research. Thermal imprints were compared to established stress markers (heart rate, heart rate variability, finger temperature, alpha-amylase and cortisol) in 15 participants undergoing anticipation, stress and recovery phases of two laboratory stress tests, the Cold Pressor Test and the Trier Social Stress Test. The majority of the thermal imprints proved to be change-sensitive in both tests. While correlations between the thermal imprints and established stress markers were mostly non-significant, the thermal imprints (but not the established stress makers) did correlate with stress-induced mood changes. Multivariate pattern analysis revealed that in contrast to the established stress markers the thermal imprints could not disambiguate anticipation, stress and recovery phases of both tests. Overall, these results suggest that thermal infrared imaging is a valuable method for the estimation of sympathetic activity in the stress laboratory setting. The use of this non-invasive method may be particularly beneficial for covert recordings, in the study of special populations showing difficulties in complying with the standard instruments of data collection and in the domain of psychophysiological covariance research. Meanwhile, the established stress markers seem to be superior when it comes to the characterization of complex physiological states during the different phases of the stress cycle. © 2014 Engert et al.

Ambrosini E.,University of Chieti Pescara | Ambrosini E.,Institute of Advanced Biomedical Technologies ITAB | Ciavarro M.,Institute of Advanced Biomedical Technologies ITAB | Ciavarro M.,University of Bologna | And 10 more authors.
PLoS ONE | Year: 2012

Background: Several psychophysical experiments found evidence for the involvement of gaze-centered and/or body-centered coordinates in arm-movement planning and execution. Here we aimed at investigating the frames of reference involved in the visuomotor transformations for reaching towards visual targets in space by taking target eccentricity and performing hand into account. Methodology/Principal Findings: We examined several performance measures while subjects reached, in complete darkness, memorized targets situated at different locations relative to the gaze and/or to the body, thus distinguishing between an eye-centered and a body-centered frame of reference involved in the computation of the movement vector. The errors seem to be mainly affected by the visual hemifield of the target, independently from its location relative to the body, with an overestimation error in the horizontal reaching dimension (retinal exaggeration effect). The use of several target locations within the perifoveal visual field allowed us to reveal a novel finding, that is, a positive linear correlation between horizontal overestimation errors and target retinal eccentricity. In addition, we found an independent influence of the performing hand on the visuomotor transformation process, with each hand misreaching towards the ipsilateral side. Conclusions: While supporting the existence of an internal mechanism of target-effector integration in multiple frames of reference, the present data, especially the linear overshoot at small target eccentricities, clearly indicate the primary role of gaze-centered coding of target location in the visuomotor transformation for reaching. © 2012 Ambrosini et al.

Ioannou S.,University of Parma | Ioannou S.,Institute of Advanced Biomedical Technologies ITAB | Ioannou S.,University of Chieti Pescara | Ebisch S.,Institute of Advanced Biomedical Technologies ITAB | And 13 more authors.
PLoS ONE | Year: 2013

So far inferences on early moral development and higher order self conscious emotions have mostly been based on behavioral data. Emotions though, as far as arguments support, are multidimensional notions. Not only do they involve behavioral actions upon perception of an event, but they also carry autonomic physiological markers. The current study aimed to examine and characterise physiological signs that underlie self-conscious emotions in early childhood, while grounding them on behavioral analyses. For this purpose, the "mishap paradigm" was used as the most reliable method for evoking feelings of "guilt" in children and autonomic facial temperature variation were detected by functional Infrared Imaging (fIRI). Fifteen children (age: 39-42 months) participated in the study. They were asked to play with a toy, falsely informed that it was the experimenter's "favourite", while being unaware that it was pre-planned to break. Mishap of the toy during engagement caused sympathetic arousal as shown by peripheral nasal vasoconstriction leading to a marked temperature drop, compared to baseline. Soothing after the mishap phase induced an increase in nose temperature, associated with parasympathetic activity suggesting that the child's distress was neutralized, or even overcompensated. Behavioral analyses reported signs of distress evoked by the paradigm, backing up the thermal observation. The results suggest that the integration of physiological elements should be crucial in research concerning socio-emotional development. fIRI is a non invasive and non contact method providing a powerful tool for inferring early moral emotional signs based on physiological observations of peripheral vasoconstriction, while preserving an ecological and natural context. © 2013 Ioannou et al.

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