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Neuro-Tools : Essentials September 23, 2016

Posted by eyetrackrob in Biometric, Captiv, Market Research, neuromarketing, Shopper Research, TEA, Technology.

In recent years eyetracking has become a standard measurement in many research fields and with the “neuro”-hype many companies and universities have started to add direct and / or indirect measurements of the central nervous system to their research toolbox aiming to add an additional dimension to help understand human behaviour and decision making.

Far from being a complete catalogue of all the options currently available this series of posts will concentrate on the more practical, and commonly used, tools for commercial research – things such as salience mapping, eyetracking, facial expression analysis, electroencephalography (EEG), implicit association tests and galvanic skin response (GSR).

With the dawn of wearable fitness devices that can easily measure blood volume pulse (BVP), from which heart rate and heart rate variability (HRV) may be derived, access to these measurements have become much easier, although not without limitations as it will become clearer in this series of blogs. Additionally some of those wearable fitness devices do allow some measurement of measure electro-dermal activity (EDA) and skin temperature showing that this technology is not far from mainstream use, at least in some form.


Although the word “neuro” is very often thought as a synonym for “brain”, neuroscience comprises the study of the complete nervous system and the tools and techniques involved are suited to measure directly or indirectly certain aspects of the processes occurring within. These tools can be broadly divided into three categories : neuro measurements, behavioural measurements and biofeedback measurements. The latter is as good as a starting point as any.

Our nervous system is quite complex and can be divided into different branches which monitor and control different body functions.

One of the branches, the sympathetic nervous system (SNS), is responsible for quick fight or flight reactions. By constantly accessing the surroundings and scanning for situations that could potentially be dangerous an evaluation takes place which leads to preparations for an adequate fight or flight reaction. These preparations can be measured throughout the body and include changes in heart rate, levels of sweat on hands and feet and respiration.


The reactions of the SNS are not immediate to the exposure to the stimulus to be evaluated. Reaction times and strength are highly individual and distinct for different measures. They can vary between 400 milliseconds up to 5 seconds. As part of the fight or flight reactions, the change in sweat levels on the palms and fingertips is thought to be an evolutionary mechanism allowing a firmer grip. Interestingly this reaction can also be measured on the feet!

Changes in pulse are associated with changes in either physical exercise or arousal. If physical exercise is constant, heart rate variation can be a reliable index of arousal. Research has been conducted measuring different combinations of HRV and heart rate related to stress and to the identification of positive or negative valence and even specific emotions.

A third measured physiological measurements is respiration. The perception or anticipation of odours is depended on respiration. In other words our sense of smell and therefore emotional activation through it, is enhanced by respiration. Research has associated respiration rate and depth with emotional impact and emotional valence.


At Acuity we provide tools to measure biofeedback synchronized with eyetracking to help understand not only where people are looking but also the emotional impact that it is causing. We can provide a series of sensors from different manufacturers that can be brought together into Captiv L700, a software from our friends over at TEA ergo (click here to see a video of the TEA Captiv Software integrating a variety of neuro-tools).
We are also happy to help you with training to explain how those sensors work, what they are measuring and get you started on the analysis and interpretation side of things.

My next post will focus on GSR but I will cover other biometrics, EEG, facial expression analysis and complements to eyetracking data in the following posts.

Stay tuned or feel free to get in touch via sales@acuity-ets.com to learn more about how to use neuro-tools in your research.