Detection of acute stress caused by cognitive tasks based on physiological signals

Valentina Markova, Todor Ganchev, Kalin Kalinkov, Miroslav Markov


We report on the development of an automated detector of acute stress based on physiological signals. Our detector discriminates between high and low levels of acute stress accumulated by students when performing cognitive tasks on a computer. The proposed detector builds on well-known physiological signal processing principles combined with the state-of-art support vector machine (SVM) classifier. The novelty aspects here come from the design and implementation of the signal pre-processing and the feature extraction stages, which were purposely designed and fine-tuned for the specific needs of acute stress detection and from applying existing algorithms to a new problem. The proposed acute stress detector was evaluated in person-specific and person-independent experimental setups using the publicly available CLAS dataset. Each setup involved three cognitive tasks with a dissimilar crux of the matter and different complexity. The experimental results indicated a very high detection accuracy when discriminating between acute stress conditions due to significant cognitive load and conditions elicited by two typical emotion elicitation tasks. Such a functionality would also contribute towards obtaining a multi-faceted analysis on the dependence of work efficiency from personal treats, cognitive load and acute stress level.


Acute stress; EDA; IQ test; Math test; PPG; Stroop test; Support vector machines

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