Autonomic responses to pressure sensitivity of head, face and neck: Heart rate and skin conductance

Wenxiu Yang*, Tingshu Chen, Renke He, Richard Goossens, Toon Huysmans

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


Subjective scales are frequently used in the design process of head-related products to assess pressure discomfort. Nevertheless, some users lack fundamental cognitive and motor abilities (e.g., paralyzed patients). Therefore, it is vital to find non-verbal measurements of pressure discomfort and pressure pain. This study gathered the autonomic response data (heart rate and skin conductance) of 30 landmarks in head, neck and face from 31 participants experiencing pressure discomfort and pressure pain. The results indicate that pressure stimulation can change heart rate (HR) and skin conductance (SC). SC can be more useful in assessing pressure discomfort than HR for specific landmarks, and SC also possesses a faster arousal rate than HR. Moreover, HR decreased in response to pressure stimulation, while SC decreased followed by an increase. In comparisons between genders, the subjective pressure discomfort threshold (PDT) and pressure pain threshold (PPT) of women were lower than those of men, but men's autonomic responses (HR and SC) were more intense. Furthermore, there was no linear correlation between subjective pressure thresholds (PDT and PPT) and autonomic response intensity. This study has significant implications for resolving ergonomic issues (pressure discomfort and pain) associated with head-related products.
Original languageEnglish
Article number104126
Number of pages8
JournalApplied Ergonomics
Publication statusPublished - 2024

Bibliographical note

Green Open Access added to TU Delft Institutional Repository 'You share, we take care!' - Taverne project
Otherwise as indicated in the copyright section: the publisher is the copyright holder of this work and the author uses the Dutch legislation to make this work public.


  • Pressure discomfort
  • Head-related products
  • Physiological signals


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