The relationship of sweat gland count to electrodermal activity


  • We thank Dr. Graham Turpin for his assistance in methodological issues regarding the use of the Palmar Sweat Index.

Address reprint requests to: Dr. Lauren Freedman, Division of Biostatistics, School of Public Health, Columbia University, 600 West 168th Street, New York, NY 10032.


This study assessed whether greater skin conductance activity at the distal versus medial site (Scerbo, Freedman, Raine, Dawson, & Venables, 1992) is attributable to a greater number of active (open) sweat glands at the distal site. The number of sweat glands was measured using the Palmar Sweat Index (PSI). Twenty-four subjects were exposed to 10 auditory stimuli. Electrodes were placed on the fore and middle fingers of each hand, using distal sites on one hand and medial sites on the other. The PSI was measured at the medial and distal phalanges adjacent to the electrode placement sites. The distal site contained more open and total sweat glands. Open gland count had the strongest correlations with skin conductance. Multivariate analyses of covariance revealed that site effects for nonspecific and orienting response frequency and trials to habituation were associated with site differences in open glands. Skin conductance measures and the PSI reveal greater electrodermal activity at the distal site. In addition, the number of open glands may be a useful measure related to electrodermal response frequency when polygraph measurement is unavailable.