Posts Tagged 'electrodermal activity'

Electrodermal hands

After our first research article on stone tool manipulation and electrodermal reaction, here a second one on the effect of hand size and morphology. Females display larger electrodermal variation and higher peaks than males in both arousal and attention, but they also have smaller hands. So, the different electrodermal reaction to tool manipulation could be due to an allometric effect associated with hand size. Accordingly to our results, this is not the case, and these electrophysiological differences during haptic exploration are instead real sex differences, due to biological or cultural factors. By the way, the length and width of the palm are the hand variables with more sexual dimorphism, while the thumb length is the one showing less sexual differences. For a general review on body cognition and cognitive archaeology, you can also see this article on hand-tool interaction, recently published in a  Current Topics in Behavioral Neurosciences volume dedicated to the Processes of Visuospatial Attention and Working Memory.

Electrodermal tools

Theories in extended cognition suggest that mind is a process generated by the integration among brain, body and environment (including technology). Actually, tools are integrated into the body structural and functional schemes when handled, and the central nervous system delegates some capacities to these extra-body peripheral elements. Haptics concerns the perceptual and somatic response during hand-tool interaction, bridging sensing and cognition. Electrodermal activity is as a quick and simple proxy for some kinds of cognitive reactions (like attention or general arousal), and can be used to test emotional changes during stone tool handling, according to different tool typologies. Now we have published a full research paper on electrodermal activity during Lower Paleolithic stone tool manipulation. There are subtle but significant differences between males and females, and between choppers and handaxes. Specific physical features of the tools do influence the electrodermal reaction. If the body-tool system is regulated according to a “prosthetic capacity” of our cognitive mechanisms, electrodermal feedback can supply a first glimpse to investigate changes and discontinuities into the archaeological record, following basic principles in psychology and electrophysiology. The main aim is clear:  to move cognitive archaeology into quantitative hypotheses testing.

Electrodermal archaeology

After all those surveys on parietal lobes and parietal evolution, some years ago we began investigating some functions particularly associated with the parietal cortex, and generically labeled as visuospatial integration. Some visuospatial behaviors can be inferred in fossils, according to anatomical and archaeological evidence. In my lab, we are interested in aspects bridging cognition, body, and tools. In a recent paper published in Progress in Brain Research we have applied electrodermal analysis to investigate the cognitive response during a haptic experience with stone tools. Electrodermal signals have been employed here to evaluate changes in emotion and attention during stone tool manipulation, as to evidence whether different tools exert different cognitive responses when handled. New methods for cognitive archaeology!

 

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The paper is part of a volume entitled “Cerebral Lateralization and Cognition: Evolutionary and Developmental Investigations of Behavioral Biases“, edited by Gillian Forrester, William Hopkins, Kristelle Hudry and Annukka Lindell.


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