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Home | Seminars and Symposia | Past seminars/symposia: Thursday, April 18, 2013

DTC Seminar Series

Fast by Nature — How Stress Patterns Define Human Experience and Performance in Dexterous Tasks


Ioannis Pavlidis
Department of Computer Science
University of Houston

Thursday, April 18, 2013
3:30 p.m. reception
4:00 p.m. seminar

401/402 Walter Library

PavlidisI will present results from a study where we quantified stress by measuring transient perspiratory responses on the perinasal area using thermal imaging. These responses prove to be sympathetically driven and hence, a likely indicator of stress processes in the brain. Armed with the unobtrusive measurement methodology we developed, we were able to monitor stress responses in the context of surgical training, the quintessence of human dexterity. We show that in dexterous tasking under critical conditions, novices attempt to perform a task's step equally fast with experienced individuals. We further show that while fast behavior in experienced individuals is afforded by skill, fast behavior in novices is likely instigated by high stress levels, at the expense of accuracy. Humans avoid adjusting speed to skill and rather grow their skill to a predetermined speed level, likely defined by neurophysiological latency. The outcome of this research not only brings to the fore a curious aspect of human nature well hidden heretofore, but it also implicitly invalidates the training models in a number of critical professions where dexterity is key. The article upon which this talk is based has been recently published in Nature's Scientific Reports and can be downloaded from:


Dr. Pavlidis is the Eckhard-Pfeiffer Professor of Computer Science and Director of the Computational Physiology Laboratory at the University of Houston. His research is funded by multiple federal agencies including the National Science Foundation and the Department of Defense, as well as corporate sources and medical institutions. He has published numerous papers and books on the topics of human-computer interaction, computational physiology, and the physiological basis of human behavior. He is well known for his work on stress quantification, which appeared in a series of articles in Nature and Lancet.