Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Professor L.E. Roberts
This thesis is concerned with the nature of the response patterns that accompany the learned control of autonomic responding. Specifically, the thesis examined the role of respiratory adjustments in learned increases in electrodermal responding. Experiment 1 measured the concomitants of learned electrodermal control in unconstrained subjects, and employed correlational analyses to examine relationships between autonomic and concomitant activities. The results indicated that even though several activities were altered during training, only respiratory changes showed evidence of being functionally coupled to electrodermal changes. Functional coupling refers to that class of relations in which performance of the concomitant directly contributes to the autonomic change, presumably because of the neural organization of the response systems involved.
Experiment 2 directly addressed the question of whether respiratory alterations were necessary for the production of electrodermal increases. Subjects were trained to alter both electrodermal activity and respiration (integration) and to alter electrodermal activity while maintaining a constant pattern of respiration (dissociation). This procedure allowed for an assessment of two questions. First, could significant electrodermal increases be produced in the absence of respiratory change? Second, would the magnitude of electrodermal change on dissociation trials be comparable to that seen on integration trials? An affirmative answer to the first question would establish that respiratory changes are not required for the production of learned increases in electrodermal activity. However, a negative answer to either question would suggest that respiratory changes were functionally coupled to electrodermal performance.
It is possible that dissociation performance may be poor, not because respiratory maneuvers contribute to electrodermal performance through functional coupling, but because dissociation is a more difficult task than integration. The information-processing demands associated with learning to change two responses in different directions may be greater than the information-processing demands associated with changing two responses in the same direction. To assess this possibility, a second group of subjects was employed substituting gross body movement for respiration. Gross body movement showed no evidence of functional coupling to electrodermal change in the first experiment, and thus it was felt that this group would serve to estimate the extent of any impairment of dissociation performance due to task difficulty.
The results of Experiment 2 demonstrated that respiratory alterations were not necessary for electrodermal increases to occur. Four of five subjects showed significant electrodermal increases on both integration and dissociation trials by the end of 18 training sessions. Furthermore, three of these four subjects produced changes of comparable magnitude on the two trial types. However, subjects did not appear to produce their electrodermal changes in isolation from other ongoing behaviors. In particular, manipulations of the volar surfaces (fingers and palms) may have contributed to electrodermal responding.
The thesis concludes with a discussion of the role of functional coupling, and the learning process itself, in determining the nature of the response patterns accompanying learned autonomic control.
Marlin, Richard G., "A Dissociative Analysis of Sudomotor Response Patterns" (1984). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 1462.