Principal Investigator

My lab’s research takes a “big picture” perspective in attempting to understand the nature of mental life, and in particular consciousness. Combining empirical, philosophical, and contemplative traditions, we address broad questions that cross traditional disciplinary boundaries.

Project Scientists

James Elliott, Ph.D, is a cognitive neuroscientist with a background in behavioral, EEG, and fMRI methodologies. He has a keen interest in exploring how traditional meditation techniques can be used to help inform a scientific understanding of consciousness. 

Michael Mrazek, Ph.D. is the director of research at the University of California's Center for Mindfulness & Human Potential. His research identifies innovative ways to increase the effectiveness of mindfulness training, particularly in high schools. He also tests the limits of how much a person can improve through intensive evidence-based training programs that target health, mindfulness, and self-control. 

Postdoctoral Researchers

Madeleine studies the psychological basis of creative idea generation and insight. Using eye tracking technology, she also investigates how inter-individual differences in eye movement behavior may relate to dopamine-related cognition and personality traits, such as curiosity, schizotypy, and creativity.

Research Specialist

Stephen Baumgart contributes to an an interdisciplinary effort to research the nature of time with a focus on anomalous cognition in the Theoretical and Applied Neurocausality Laboratory (TANC Lab), which he cofounded.

Robert Bernstein has an MS from UCSB Physics 1984 and a BS in Physics from MIT 1980. He is interested in the Hard Problem of Consciousness: How it is that we have phenomenal experience at all.

Marissa Ericson is interested in oscillopathies, resonance and neural models of sub-threshold perceptual processes, as well as intra-somatic coherence among bodily systems and organs (EEG, EKG, and EGG). Her research interests and current projects span computational and information processing models of consciousness, General Resonance theory (GRT) of consciousness, mindfulness, brain-body dynamics, self-transcendence and peak states, neural synchrony, and quantum theories of consciousness. 

Tam Hunt

Tam Hunt is an Affiliate Guest in Psychology in the META Lab. His work focuses on the philosophy of mind, reconciliation of scientific and spiritual views of the world, and the interaction of mind and matter. A practicing lawyer, Hunt brings a unique perspective to psychology and philosophy. Hunt also teaches at UCSB's graduate program Bren School of Environmental Science & Management, where he focuses on climate change law and policy and renewable energy law and policy.

Elliott's research interests include peak experiences, neuroplasticity, affective neuroscience, and the nature of consciousness. 

Alex Landry is a Ph.D. student at Stanford's Graduate School of Business, where he studies the social psychology of extreme intergroup conflict. Most of his work has focused on dehumanization - the process of conceiving of another group of people as less than fully human -  and its role in the perpetuation of intergroup hostility. He also studies the psychology of ideological extremism and radicalization, both in terrorist organizations abroad and among American political partisans.

Alan Macy is currently focusing on psychophysiology, emotional and motivational state measurements, magnetic resonance imaging and augmented/virtual reality implementations. His recent research and artistic efforts explore ideas of human nervous system extension and the associated impacts upon perception.  As an applied science artist, he specializes in the creation of cybernated art, interactive sculpture and environments. 

Alissa Mrazek is a Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology at UT Austin as well as a long-time collaborator with the META Lab. Alissa conducted a post-doctoral fellowship at the Center for Mindfulness and Human Potential with Dr. Jonathan Schooler from 2016-2020. Before working at UCSB, Alissa completed her Ph.D. in 2016 at Northwestern University where she began appreciating the synergistic benefits of integrative interventions—particularly when combining mindset training with strategy training. 

Protzko is an Assistant Professor at Central Connecticut State University, Director of the ASSUMPTION lab, and Associate Director of the Psychological Science Accelerator. He studies underlying assumptions of people, scientists, and society. This work is primarily in metascience, social psychology, and cognitive psychology.

One line of Claire's research focuses on the role meta-awareness plays in the dynamic changes between states of mind wandering and focused attention. Another line examines the relationship between different types of mind wandering, creativity and curiosity. 

Lab Manager

Dharma is a fifth year Biopsychology student and the current lab manager of the META lab. She is interested in interdisciplinary cognitive science and the pedagogical implications of consciousness-related phenomena, like mind wandering and meta-cognition. Currently, she is aiming to increase the accessibility of modern mindfulness in an academic context, and examine the electrophysiological underpinnings of conscious experience.

Graduate Students

Anusha studies the mechanisms and content of mind wandering. In the past, she's worked on assessing the content of the spontaneous stream of consciousness. She's currently investigating the differences between the quality of thoughts obtained during think aloud and silent mind wandering protocols. 

Josh studies the phenomenology of thought across the sleep/wake cycle, and whether certain personality traits, such as creativity and transliminality, correspond with greater overlap between dreams and waking thoughts. He is also interested in the interaction between personality and aesthetic preferences. 

Asa Young

Asa is a current doctoral student in Dr. Jonathan Schooler’s META Lab at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He earned his Bachelors of Science in Psychological and Brain Sciences at UCSB and conducted research as the lab manager of META Lab and research assistant to Dr. Miguel Eckstein’s VIU lab. He is also the former Research Specialist for Neurofield Neurotherapy. Asa’s research concerns the origin and mechanisms of phenomenal consciousness within the complex dynamics of neural rhythms within and without the brain.

Research Assistants

Devon Acker-James is a third year Psychology and Brain Sciences major with a minor in Applied Psychology. He is interested in the psychological and physiological effects of meditation and psychedelics. He loves to surf, hike, and play basketball.

Remy is a third year Psychological and Brain Sciences student with a minor in Spanish. She is interested in scientific writing, cultural psychology, and the effects of meditation on mental health.

Chi is a fourth-year majoring in Psychology and Chinese.  He is assisting Stephen Baumgart with EEG research in TANC Lab. Chi is interested in working in the behavioral health field. 

Emma is a third year Psychological and Brain Sciences major and Philosophy minor. She is assisting graduate student Madeleine Gross on a project concerning mind wandering and curiosity. Some of her research interests include top down and bottom up processing, meta awareness, self representation, and the relationship between affective states and motivation.

Janice is a fourth-year Psychological & Brain Sciences and Philosophy double major. She is currently assisting Madeleine Gross on a project concerning mind wandering, eye tracking, and curiosity. Her interests include mindfulness, clinical psychology, and belief in free will and determinism. 

Ben is a second-year Environmental Studies & Psychological & Brain Sciences double major assisting James Elliott with researching fluctuations of experiences during meditation using EEG. His specific interests include ecopsychology, creativity, and psychotherapy for those with special needs. 

My name is Jinny Kim, and I am a 3rd year Biopsychology major and Applied Psychology minor. I am assisting James Elliott regarding fluctuations of experience and EEG during meditation. My specific interests are dream analysis and psychotherapy for criminals.

Emilija is a first year pre-Biopsychology major interested in mindfulness and its impacts on health. She is assisting James Elliott in studying alterations in brain state during meditation through EEG.

Haley Mehlman is a 3rd year Psychological and Brain Sciences and Communication double major. She is working in the TANC lab assisting James Elliott with studies using EEG on expectation, perception of random stimuli, magical thinking, and creativity.

Clarissa Ann is a second year Pre-Psychological and Brain Sciences major with a love for learning psychological and philosophical topics, and an interest in health. She is currently assisting Shivang Shelat with his research on meditation's effects on fatigue and creativity. 

Andre is a biopsychology major and will be assisting Anusha Garg in her research on mind-wandering. Andre is interested in mental health. 

Alex is a fourth year Psychological and Brain Sciences major. She is assisting Josh Ortega with his research on transliminality, how it manifests within the dream-wake cycle, and the implications this may have for thought content and sleep quality. Her interests include mindfulness, meta awareness, and how meditation practices can be incorporated into psychological/psychiatric treatment.

Simone is a second year Art major with an interest in creative expression, mental health, and meditation. She is currently assisting James Elliott in studying fluctuations of mental states during meditation using EEG. 

Kiana is interested in the relationship between meditation, mind wandering, and belief in free will. She completed an honors thesis with advisor James Elliott and graduated from UCSB in June of 2022 with a B.S. in Psychological & Brain Sciences and a B.A. in Philosophy. She is currently the assistant at UCSB's Brain Imaging Center.

Brooke is a third year Psychological and Brain Sciences Major. She has a keen interest in mindfulness, complex trauma, neuroplasticity, and the interplay between these domains. Brooke is currently assisting Alex Landry in his exploration into dehumanization in intergroup conflict.

Ella Schwasnick is a second year Psychological and Brain Sciences major. She is interested in the effects of mindfulness and mediation on mental health and mental disorders. She is currently assisting James Elliot in studying brain state changes during meditation.

Rubena Taj is a second year at UCSB majoring in Biology. She will be assisting Anusha Garg in her research on mind-wandering. Her interests include mindfulness, cognitive neuroscience, consciousness, and clinical psychology.

Evan is a fourth year Biopsychology major with a minor in Anthropology. He is interested in Mindfulness and Mediation and its connection to healthcare.

Derek is a first year Writing & Literature and Philosophy double major. He is interested in mindfulness, storytelling, and studying the different levels of consciousness and how we can access them in our daily lives. He is assisting Nikki Johnson and Tam Hunt in the study of the General Resonance Theory (GRT).

Mateo is a third year Biopsychology major who is assisting James Elliot with his research on meditation and the psychological and physiological mechanisms of rituals. He is particularly interested in the implications of meditation and religious/spiritual experiences to psychology, neuroscience and the field of neurophenomenology.

Jayne is a second year Psychological and Brain Sciences major with an interest in cognitive psychology and cortical remapping. She is assisting Shivang Shelat with his research on the effects of meditation on cognitive processes.


Benji is working primarily with John Protzko on research exploring The Decline Effect. 

 Ben's research investigates distortions in the subjective experience of time and the resulting perceptual concequences.

Shivang's interests lie in human-machine interaction, consciousness, and fatigue. He is currently researching the effects of meditation on psychomotor vigilance, divergent thinking, and phenomenology of thought.