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Holiday-related stress is as much of a seasonal tradition as family gatherings, frantic shopping forays, and over-indulgence in food and drink. Add to this potent mixture nearly two years of pandemic-induced tension and we have a volatile cocktail of emotions and anxiety awaiting us in November and December. What better time to study the causes and effects of stress?

Research has established strong links between stress and our moods and sense of well-being, not to mention overall mental and physical health. While certain types of stress during development can teach individuals to adapt to life’s many challenges, excessive and prolonged stress is shown to contribute to chronic disease and a range of psychological disorders. According to the American Psychological Association, which conducts an annual survey monitoring stress, the COVID pandemic has had an unprecedented impact on stress levels across all demographics, particularly among young people.

The pandemic is just one of many factors driving demand for new approaches to stress research. Thankfully, researchers now have access to a myriad of technologies to support any experiment design. In a recent webinar on techniques for measuring physiological changes related to stress, BIOPAC head of European Sales, Alex Dimov, outlined a range of stress-connected physiological responses that can be measured in the lab with available technologies. These include heart rate, heart rate variability (HRV), trans-radial-ulnar electrical bioimpedance velocimetry (TREV), cardiac output, blood pressure, EDA, pulse, respiration, EMG, EEG, and functional near infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS).

One of the challenges of measuring stress in a natural environment is finding the right data gathering tools to support the mobility of test participants. A 2019 study tackled this by examining a variety of techniques for measuring stress in day-to-day life using mobile phones and wearable sensors. Settings included the lab, automobile, office, school, and other daily life locations. Along with consumer products like smartphones, smartwatches, and fitness bands, researchers also employed wearable sensors, including the BioNomadix wireless PPG transmitter to measure blood volume pulse (BVP) using a photo plethysmogram (PPG) signal. Researchers found that the BIOPAC device provided a high level of accuracy (80%) when employed outside of the traditional lab environment.

Smelling RosesStress research technologies are not limited to data gathering. Stimulus presentation tools offer researchers options for both inducing and alleviating stress in the lab. A 2019 University of Wisconsin study investigating the role scents can play in reducing stress utilized EDA, heart rate, and respiratory rate to measure how rose scent reduced anxiety among students taking a difficult test. Respiratory rate was measured using a BIOPAC respiratory transducer while EDA data was collected with an EDA finger transducer. Data was collected and analyzed via the Biopac Student Lab System. While rose scent was delivered using scented lotion, it should be noted that BIOPAC offers a new modular scent delivery system that is capable of delivering up to eight scents per experiment, with more than 120 scent options.

With so many data gathering tools available, planning your next experiment should not leave you feeling on edge. Let your BIOPAC sales rep help you take the stress out of stress research.

BIOPAC offers a wide array of wired and wireless equipment that can be used in your research. To find more information on solutions for recording and analyzing signals such as ECG, heart rate, respiration, and more using any platforms mentioned in this blog post, you can visit the individual application pages on the BIOPAC website.

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