Duration: september 2013 – august 2014

Background

Unlike many past studies focusing on physiological aspects of stress, we are particularly interested in how breathing pattern affects stress perception or “perceived stress”. Experiencing stress is the degree to which an individual values ​a situation ​as stressful (Cohen, 1983). Next to measuring breathing pattern we measure physiological parameters such as EEG, heart rate, muscle activity, skin conductance and temperature. The psychological aspect, the perception of stress in this study, however, is the dependent variable.

Aim

There is little research on breathing as a means of intervention, but a compelling correlational link has been demonstrated between lower respiratory rate and relaxation (Vleminckx, 2007). The expectation is that there also exists a causal relationship. The research question is to what extent slowed breathing frequency leads to a decrease in the experience of stress.

Method

In this study a within-subjects design is used. Twenty healthy student participants are randomly assigned to two groups A (n = 10) and B (n = 10). The participants of Group A are following a four-weeks slow paced breath training intervention. Meanwhile group B is following a normal paced breath training.
During the training period participants from both groups are asked to perform breathing exercises twice a day. Each exercise takes about 7 minutes. Participants follow the exercises through a breath training app running on the their own smartphone.

Next to the smartphone training both groups are subjected to a total of three laboratory measuring sessions. Each particular session has the following setup: [1] filling out the Perceived Stress Scale questionnaire (PSS-10), [2] 5 min.  relaxation in a personal and comfortable way, [3] a 10 min. period of slow paced breathing, [4] again a 5 min. period of relaxation. During stage 2-4 breathing pattern,  EEG, heart rate, muscle activity, skin conductance and temperature are continuously measured.

Output

The current research is conducted in healthy students of the Hanze University. Depending on the results,  the research will be scaled up to a clinical population. In that case, publication in a scientific journal will also be pursued.