Monitoring cognitive and emotional processes through pupil and cardiac response during dynamic versus logical task

Appl Psychophysiol Biofeedback. 2010 Jun;35(2):115-23. doi: 10.1007/s10484-009-9115-0.


The paper deals with the links between physiological measurements and cognitive and emotional functioning. As long as the operator is a key agent in charge of complex systems, the definition of metrics able to predict his performance is a great challenge. The measurement of the physiological state is a very promising way but a very acute comprehension is required; in particular few studies compare autonomous nervous system reactivity according to specific cognitive processes during task performance and task related psychological stress is often ignored. We compared physiological parameters recorded on 24 healthy subjects facing two neuropsychological tasks: a dynamic task that require problem solving in a world that continually evolves over time and a logical task representative of cognitive processes performed by operators facing everyday problem solving. Results showed that the mean pupil diameter change was higher during the dynamic task; conversely, the heart rate was more elevated during the logical task. Finally, the systolic blood pressure seemed to be strongly sensitive to psychological stress. A better taking into account of the precise influence of a given cognitive activity and both workload and related task-induced psychological stress during task performance is a promising way to better monitor operators in complex working situations to detect mental overload or pejorative stress factor of error.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Attention / physiology
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Female
  • Heart Rate / physiology
  • Hemodynamics / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Learning / physiology
  • Logic
  • Male
  • Memory, Short-Term / physiology
  • Mental Processes / physiology*
  • Pupil / physiology*
  • Sympathetic Nervous System / physiology
  • Visual Perception / physiology
  • Young Adult