Feature extraction and selection for pain recognition using peripheral physiological signals

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In pattern recognition, the selection of appropriate features is paramount to both the performance and the robustness of the system. Over-reliance on machine learning-based feature selection methods can, therefore, be problematic; especially when conducted using small snapshots of data. The results of these methods, if adopted without proper interpretation, can lead to sub-optimal system design or worse, the abandonment of otherwise viable and important features. In this work, a deep exploration of pain-based emotion classification was conducted to better understand differences in the results of the related literature. In total, 155 different time domain and frequency domain features were explored, derived from electromyogram (EMG), skin conductance levels (SCL), and electrocardiogram (ECG) readings taken from the 85 subjects in response to heat-induced pain. To address the inconsistency in the optimal feature sets found in related works, an exhaustive and interpretable feature selection protocol was followed to obtain a generalizable feature set. Associations between features were then visualized using a topologically-informed chart, called Mapper, of this physiological feature space, including synthesis and comparison of results from previous literature. This topological feature chart was able to identify key sources of information that led to the formation of five main functional feature groups: Signal amplitude and power, frequency information, nonlinear complexity, unique, and connecting. These functional groupings were used to extract further insight into observable autonomic responses to pain through a complementary statistical interaction analysis. From this chart, it was observed that EMG and SCL derived features could functionally replace those obtained from ECG. These insights motivate future work on novel sensing modalities, feature design, deep learning approaches, and dimensionality reduction techniques.




Campbell, E., Phinyomark, A., & Scheme, E. (2019). Feature extraction and selection for pain recognition using peripheral physiological signals. Frontiers in Neuroscience, 13(MAY). https://doi.org/10.3389/fnins.2019.00437

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