Inbodied Interaction 102 -Exploring Neuro-Physio Pathways & Measures for Health Design (& Self-Tuning )

This course follows Inbodied Interaction 101 (prerequisite for 102)

Overview of Inbodied Interaction 102

In Inbodied Interaction 101, we consider the Physiology and Anatomy of the body via three associated interactions that reflect an inbodied state:

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  • 1. inbodied adaptation in response to the in5 and C4 over Time and Context in order to maintain
  • 2. homeostasis via
  • 3. metabolism.
  • We called this adaptation process “tuning.”
Brain Waves - an overview | ScienceDirect Topics

In 102 we build on this foundation to consider the physiology tuning. In particular we will look at a series of inbodied interactions:

  • the neuro-endocrine system interaction with the organ systems that cue adaptive responses from genetic signals to fat metabolism;
  • the autonomic nervous system and the limbic system/pre-frontal cortex interactions that affect volitional/non-volitional interaction.
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We will introduce the components of

  • the brainstem,
  • basal nuclei and
  • cerebellum
    that support interoception around self-Tuning.
Brain structures comprising the (left) basal ganglia and (right) limbic...  | Download Scientific Diagram

Within this framing, we will look at the strengths and limits of non-invasive measures of these processes (eg, HRV, EEG, blood oxygen saturation, qualitative responses).

Outcomes will include:

  • familiarity with how we function as inbodied complex systems,
  • worked examples of how the physiology of tuning can be translated into interactive designs to support health, wellbeing, performance in new ways.

Curriculum overview

To make the material in this course as useful and practicable as possible, we will use the in5’s MOVE as our orientation point for the physiology of adaptation. MOVE is the first of the semi-volitional in5 MEECS we discuss in Inbodied 101. As a 101 review, we will first consider the functional properties of MOVEMENT relative to homeostasis, metabolism and adaptation. We will then situate movement relative to the three lenses of organs, signals, and integration, further detailed below.

Lens One: Organs. We will consider each of the 11 organ systems relative to the Tuning demands of movement for adaptation via metabolism to support homeostasis. 11 organ systems in the body not only supports movement, but perhaps more critically in terms of contemporary interactive design, requires movement for healthful homeostasis. Recent research has shown that we are constantly needing to reevaluate how we define these interactions. For example, work on skeletal processes shows bone may be involved in energy metabolism and cognition [1] . Likewise work around the fascia is suggesting it may be a “new” organ system itself [3]. Each of these systems adapts, or reshapes its cellular tissue, based on interactions like movement, with it.  From just this overview of organ system interaction alone, we will be able to ask profound questions about evaluation of current designs from work to infrastructure as fit for purpose.   


Lens Two: Signals. Moving has many volitional or conscious components, that relate to adaptations we often measure, from body composition to skills acquisition. We see these as outcomes of conscious deliberate practice. And yet, most of our movement processes happen without conscious attention. There is a constant interplay between conscious and the autonomic processes that support conscious action – and that significantly influence conscious decisions and actions. These processes – whether we are aware of them or not – are all enabled and affected by the signals from the nervous and endocrine systems. The body’s capacity internally to respond to these signals influences how well our organs respond to adaptive cues, including how well we build new patterns and skills. These signals have particular dimensions from their direction of travel in the body, their speed along a given pathway, to their types of cellular or genetic interactions. We’ll consider research  [4] that is blurring the distinction between volitional and autonomic processes, and how these affect our health performance.

Hormones and Neurotransmitters: The Differences and Curious Similarities |  by Alpana and Murari Chaudhuri | The Biochemists | Medium

Lens Three: Integration. Within the nervous system, the autonomic system is constantly monitoring and mediating the signals from the neuro-endocrine systems in order to maintain homeostasis. When we move, we are integrating patterns and making decisions that require us to interpret our context for what is salient, and then execute responses to that event [5,6]. This section considers the processes that support that complex interaction of signal perception to evaluation to action, introducing sub-cortical interactions via the brainstem, cerebellum and basal ganglia in particular.

Brain structures comprising the (left) basal ganglia and (right) limbic...  | Download Scientific Diagram

From this overview of inbodied physiology of adaptation, we will look at how we can use current and evolving measures to assess our designs to support self-tuning in particular. We will consider the following questions:

  1. What are we measuring? As is typically the case with physiological measures more generally, we are looking at change (e.g., heart rate increases or decreases). This section presents fundamental models to explain the underlying causes of these state changes to help designers better understand or model intervention effects, highlighting key characteristics of these processes such as whether they are mainly metabolic or physiologic in nature, differentiating between chronic and acute states, identifying key factors affecting types of state changes, and discussing relations between organ systems like endocrine, nervous, and enteric.
  2. How are we measuring? What makes this an interesting and challenging area of study is that directly measuring changes in these bodily states is often infeasible, and therefore, many commonly used measures are actually proxies for these associated states. For example, HRV can be used as a proxy for breathing depth and recovery. Similarly, saccades – a visual assessment – provide insight into thalmus activity which can give us insight into neural pathway stimulation, and inform design decisions that could help improve, for example, attention, strength, sleep, etc. In this section, we will present and discuss the various proxy measures that can be used to gain insight into internal bodily state, focusing specifically on implications for design, and trade-offs between invasiveness, ease of measurement, accuracy, and robustness to external factors.
  3. HCI examples of autonomic measures: We review the role of the autonomic nervous system and consider key measures:
    1. HRV as a proxy for breathing, as a proxy for neurological state dominance, and as a proxy for stress embodied in peripheral design for breathing application [9].
    1. Peripheral vision as a proxy for peripheral awareness, as a proxy for EEG state, and as a controller for eBike acceleration [2]
  4. New Brainstem / Cerebellar Assessment Sampler. This section will introduce a new-to-hci area of the brain – the midbrain and cerebellum – for consideration in HCI. New light weight measures and evaluation include: eye tracking, rapid alternating movements, air hunger challenges, vibration.

Practical Work

Lecture, Q&A, and demonstration will be the main interaction for sections 1-3. In section 4, students will learn and practice these assessments, and discuss how they can be applied in a design context. Eg: understanding about the connection between vision, fatigue and balance may help applications move away from trying to correct posture before assessing vision. This approach has considerable implication for innovative screen designs.


 [1]             Daniel Addai, Jacqueline Zarkos, and Anna Tolekova. 2019. The bone hormones and their potential effects on glucose and energy metabolism. Endocr Regul 53, 4 (October 2019), 268–273. DOI:

[2]              Josh Andres, m.c. schraefel, Nathan Semertzidis, Brahmi Dwivedi, Yutika C. Kulwe, Juerg von Kaenel, and Florian Floyd Mueller. 2020. Introducing Peripheral Awareness as a Neurological State for Human-computer Integration. In Proceedings of the 2020 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI ’20), Association for Computing Machinery, New York, NY, USA, 1–13. DOI:

[3]              Bruno Bordoni, Fabiola Marelli, Bruno Morabito, Roberto Castagna, Beatrice Sacconi, and Paul Mazzucco. 2018. New Proposal to Define the Fascial System. Complement Med Res 25, 4 (2018), 257–262. DOI:

[4]              G. A. Buijze, H. M. Y. De Jong, M. Kox, M. G. van de Sande, D. Van Schaardenburg, R. M. Van Vugt, C. D. Popa, P. Pickkers, and D. L. P. Baeten. 2019. An add-on training program involving breathing exercises, cold exposure, and meditation attenuates inflammation and disease activity in axial spondyloarthritis – A proof of concept trial. PLoS One 14, 12 (December 2019). DOI:

[5]              Garrett Mulcahy, Brady Atwood, and Alexey Kuznetsov. 2020. Basal ganglia role in learning rewarded actions and executing previously learned choices: Healthy and diseased states. PloS One 15, 2 (2020), e0228081. DOI:

[6]              Jordan E. Pierce and Julie Péron. 2020. The basal ganglia and the cerebellum in human emotion. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience 15, 5 (July 2020), 599–613. DOI:

[7]              m.c. schraefel. 2020. Introduction. interactions 27, 2 (February 2020), 32–37. DOI:

[8]              m.c. schraefel and Eric Hekler. 2020. Tuning: an approach for supporting healthful adaptation. interactions 27, 2 (February 2020), 48–53. DOI:

[9]              Aaron Tabor, Scott Bateman, Erik Scheme, and m.c. schraefel. 2019. BREATHING PHYSIOLOGY AND GUIDED BREATHING EXERCISE: A PRIMER. University of New Brunswick, New Brunswick, Canada. Retrieved from

[10]            Nađa Terzimehić, Renate Häuslschmid, Heinrich Hussmann, and m.c. schraefel. 2019. A Review & Analysis of Mindfulness Research in HCI: Framing Current Lines of Research and Future Opportunities. In Proceedings of the 2019 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI ’19), Association for Computing Machinery, Glasgow, Scotland Uk, 1–13. DOI:


m.c. schraefel, Josh Andrés, Aaron Tabor