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The Galvanic Skin Response

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The Galvanic Skin Response

The simple psycho-galvanometer was one of the earliest tools of psychological research. A psycho-galvanometer measures the resistance of the skin to the passage of a very small electric current. It has been known for decades that the magnitude of this electrical resistance is affected, not only by the subject's general mood, but also by immediate emotional reactions. Although these facts have been known for over a hundred years and the first paper to be presented on the subject of the psycho-galvanometer was written by Tarchanoff in 1890, it has only been within the last 25 years that the underlying causes of this change in skin resistance have been discovered.

The Tarchanoff Response is a change in DC potential across neurones of the autonomic nervous system connected to the sensori-motor strip of the cortex. This change was found to be related to the level of cortical arousal. The emotional charge on a word, heard by a subject, would have an immediate effect on the subject's level of arousal, and cause this physiological response. Because the hands have a particularly large representation of nerve endings on the sensori-motor strip of the cortex, hand-held electrodes are ideal. As arousal increases, the "fight or flight" stress response of the autonomic nervous system comes into action, and adrenaline causes increased sweating amongst many other phenomena, but the speed of sweating response is nowhere near as instantaneous or accurate as the Tarchanoff response.

The most advanced layers of the cortex, unique to Man, link to the thumb and forefinger especially, and there is a further complex physiological response which occurs when the forebrain is aroused. Changes in Alpha rhythms cause blood capillaries to enlarge, and this too affects resistance.

By virtue of the Galvanic Skin Response, autonomic nervous system activity causes a change in the skin's conductivity. The overall degree of arousal of the hemispheres,



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