Mapping of electrodermal activity (EDA) during outdoor community-level mobility tasks in individuals with lower-limb amputation

J Rehabil Assist Technol Eng. 2021 Jun 2;8:20556683211006837. doi: 10.1177/20556683211006837. eCollection 2021 Jan-Dec.


Introduction: Balance confidence and perception of task challenge is an important construct to measure in rehabilitation of people with lower-limb amputation (LLA). Measurement of electrodermal activity (EDA) captures physiological arousal responses reflecting an individual's perceived challenge in a task. This study explores the feasibility of the use of EDA during outdoor walking tasks to capture task-specific physiological arousal changes associated with perception of challenge in people with amputation.

Objective: To develop and demonstrate feasibility of a portable EDA/GPS system mapping physiological arousal while challenging walking balance outdoors in individuals with LLA and controls.

Methods: Sixteen people (eight with LLA and eight age-/sex-matched controls) completed an outdoor walking course in the community (3 laps). A battery-powered portable device was developed containing EDA/GPS sensors with data logged on a microcontroller. Phasic EDA response was extracted from EDA signal to explore the physiological arousal response to walking tasks.

Results: Physiological arousal demonstrated task-specific modulation with ascending stairs without a handrail showing higher levels of phasic EDA than walking on a paved incline (p = 0.01) or a gravel decline (p = 0.01) in people with LLA. While evidence of habituation over repeated trials was shown in controls with lap 1 of walking down a gravel decline showing higher levels of phasic EDA than lap 3 (p = 0.01). Phasic EDA maps, representative of arousal levels throughout the walking course, showed individual-specific response.

Conclusion: Mapping of EDA during outdoor walking is feasible. Modulation of physiological arousal between outdoor walking tasks and over repeated trials is suggestive of clinical utility. Further research is warranted to explore how EDA may be incorporated into assessment of response to outdoor walking amongst individuals following LLA.

Keywords: Balance confidence; community walking; lower-limb amputee; physiological arousal.