Rhythms of the body, rhythms of the brain: Respiration, neural oscillations, and embodied cognition

Somogy Varga, Detlef H. Heck

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

64 Scopus citations


In spite of its importance as a life-defining rhythmic movement and its constant rhythmic contraction and relaxation of the body, respiration has not received attention in Embodied Cognition (EC) literature. Our paper aims to show that (1) respiration exerts significant and unexpected influence on cognitive processes, and (2) it does so by modulating neural synchronization that underlies specific cognitive processes. Then, (3) we suggest that the particular example of respiration may function as a model for a general mechanism through which the body influences cognitive functioning. Finally, (4) we work out the implications for EC, draw a parallel to the role of gesture, and argue that respiration sometimes plays a double, pragmatic and epistemic, role, which reduces the cognitive load. In such cases, consistent with EC, the overall cognitive activity includes a loop-like interaction between neural and non-neural elements.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)77-90
Number of pages14
JournalConsciousness and Cognition
StatePublished - Nov 2017
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 Elsevier Inc.


  • Coherence
  • Embodied cognition
  • Gesture
  • Neural oscillation
  • Respiration
  • Sensory afference
  • Synchrony


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