Physiological Measurement, 34(4), 449–464p. (2013) DOI:10.1088/0967-3334/34/4/449

Improving emotion recognition systems by embedding cardiorespiratory coupling

G. Valenza, A. Lanatà, E. P. Scilingo

This work aims at showing improved performances of an emotion recognition system embedding information gathered from cardiorespiratory (CR) coupling. Here, we propose a novel methodology able to robustly identify up to 25 regions of a two-dimensional space model, namely the well-known circumplex model of affect (CMA). The novelty of embedding CR coupling information in an autonomic nervous system-based feature space better reveals the sympathetic activations upon emotional stimuli. A CR synchrogram analysis was used to quantify such a coupling in terms of number of heartbeats per respiratory period. Physiological data were gathered from 35 healthy subjects emotionally elicited by means of affective pictures of the international affective picture system database. In this study, we finely detected five levels of arousal and five levels of valence as well as the neutral state, whose combinations were used for identifying 25 different affective states in the CMA plane. We show that the inclusion of the bivariate CR measures in a previously developed system based only on monovariate measures of heart rate variability, respiration dynamics and electrodermal response dramatically increases the recognition accuracy of a quadratic discriminant classifier, obtaining more than 90% of correct classification per class. Finally, we propose a comprehensive description of the CR coupling during sympathetic elicitation adapting an existing theoretical nonlinear model with external driving. The theoretical idea behind this model is that the CR system is comprised of weakly coupled self-sustained oscillators that, when exposed to an external perturbation (i.e. sympathetic activity), becomes synchronized and less sensible to input variations. Given the demonstrated role of the CR coupling, this model can constitute a general tool which is easily embedded in other model-based emotion recognition systems.

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