Conscious breathing is an aspect of all forms of meditation and yoga. Emerging research indicates that the effects of controlled breathing on the mind-body system and concomitant mental states warrants further investigation. We propose a two-phase investigation of breathing practices during which we will: (1) systematically review the literature on reported effects of voluntarily regulated breathing practices (VRBPs) on psychophysiological and psychological outcomes, and (2) conduct a pilot study to examine the effect of one specific breathing practice—coherent breathing (gentle breathing paced at five breaths per minute)—on self-regulation, cognition, and problem solving under stress. The purpose of this project is twofold. First, we seek to establish a line of rigorous research into the use of controlled breathing for a variety of adaptive outcomes. Second, we aim to collect preliminary data on the effects of coherent breathing to prepare for a randomized controlled trial. Our interdisciplinary team brings together an experimental psychologist with expertise in self-regulation and mindfulness, a cognitive and computer scientist with expertise in affective and cognitive modeling and physiological sensing, and a psychiatrist with expertise in VRBPs. The project’s focus coupled with researcher capabilities allows us to make needed empirical and theoretical advances to contemplative science.

Catherine Spann, PhD

University of Colorado–Boulder


Catherine is a Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Institute of Cognitive Science at the University of Colorado. She received her Ph.D. in Experimental Psychology from the University of Texas at Arlington. … MORE