Follow your breath: Respiratory interoceptive accuracy in experienced meditators


  • We are grateful to David Goldman, Anthony Maes, Derek Ramsey, Kevin Chan, Viranjini Gopisetty, and Elizabeth Bartmess for their work on this project. We thank Cynthia Price, Paul Davenport, David Anderson, and two anonymous reviewers for valuable comments on earlier versions of this manuscript, and Paul Davenport and Paul Grossman for initial consultations on the task design. This research was supported by the Mt. Zion Health Fund; and National Institutes of Health (NIH) grants K01AT004199 awarded to JD, K01AT003459 awarded to CK, and K23-AT002298 awarded to WM from the National Center for Complementary & Alternative Medicine (NCCAM). The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of NCCAM or NIH.

Address correspondence to: Wolf Mehling, MD, or Jennifer Daubenmier, PhD, Osher Center for Integrative Medicine, 1545 Divisadero St., 4th Floor, San Francisco, CA 94115. E-mail: or


Attention to internal bodily sensations is a core feature of mindfulness meditation. Previous studies have not detected differences in interoceptive accuracy between meditators and nonmeditators on heartbeat detection and perception tasks. We compared differences in respiratory interoceptive accuracy between meditators and nonmeditators in the ability to detect and discriminate respiratory resistive loads and sustain accurate perception of respiratory tidal volume during nondistracted and distracted conditions. Groups did not differ in overall performance on the detection and discrimination tasks; however, meditators were more accurate in discriminating the resistive load with the lowest ceiling effect. Meditators were also more accurate during the nondistracted tracking task at a lag time of 1 s following the breath. Results provide initial support for the notion that meditators have greater respiratory interoceptive accuracy compared to nonmeditators.