Unakafov, A. M., Möller, S., Kagan, I. et al. 2018. Using imaging photoplethysmography for heart rate estimation in non-human primates. PLoS ONE 13(8), e0202581.

For humans and for non-human primates heart rate is a reliable indicator of an individual’s current physiological state, with applications ranging from health checks to experimental studies of cognitive and emotional state. In humans, changes in the optical properties of the skin tissue correlated with cardiac cycles (imaging photoplethysmogram, iPPG) allow non-contact estimation of heart rate by its proxy, pulse rate. Yet, there is no established simple and non-invasive technique for pulse rate measurements in awake and behaving animals. Using iPPG, we here demonstrate that pulse rate in rhesus monkeys can be accurately estimated from facial videos. We computed iPPGs from eight color facial videos of four awake head-stabilized rhesus monkeys. Pulse rate estimated from iPPGs was in good agreement with reference data from a contact pulse-oximeter: the error of pulse rate estimation was below 5% of the individual average pulse rate in 83% of the epochs; the error was below 10% for 98% of the epochs. We conclude that iPPG allows non-invasive and non-contact estimation of pulse rate in non-human primates, which is useful for physiological studies and can be used toward welfare-assessment of non-human primates in research.