Fadel Zeidan

Pain relief with mindfulness meditation

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Study findings published in the Journal of Neuroscience provide “novel evidence demonstrating that mindfulness meditation produces greater pain relief and employs distinct neural mechanisms than placebo cream and sham mindfulness meditation,” according to the authors.

Led by Fadel Zeidan, PhD, assistant professor of neurobiology and anatomy at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, the study team found that mindfulness meditation—unlike other cognitive-based approaches to reduce pain, such as hypnosis, acupuncture, distraction, and even the placebo effect—does not appear to utilize the endogenous opioid system to reduce pain.

“Our finding was surprising and could be important for the millions of chronic pain sufferers who are seeking a fast-acting, non-opiate-based therapy to alleviate their pain,” said Zeidan. The finding is all the more important considering that the approximately 100 million Americans who suffer from chronic pain—according to estimates from the Institute of Medicine—spend more than $600 billion annually on treatment. The finding could also provide much-needed relief to the increasing problem of opioid addiction from prescription medications to heroin, which the CDC has labeled an epidemic.

Although mindfulness meditation had been shown in previous research to reduce pain in experimental and clinical settings, whether it engaged pain-relieving mechanisms other than those associated with the placebo effect (eg, conditioning, psychological context, beliefs) had yet to be defined.

To determine if the analgesic mechanisms of mindfulness meditation are different from placebo or use the body’s opioids, the researchers injected participants with naloxone to block the pain-reducing effects of opioids and then randomly assigned 75 healthy volunteers to 4 days (20 minutes per day) of the following:

  • Mindfulness meditation plus naloxone
  • Non-meditation control plus naloxone
  • Meditation plus saline placebo
  • Non-meditation control plus saline placebo

The study teamed used a thermal probe to heat a small area of participants’ skin to 120.2 degrees, a heat most people find very painful. Participants rated their pain on a sliding scale. Patients in the meditation plus naloxone group experienced a 24% reduction from baseline in pain ratings.

According to Zeidan, this finding shows that even when opioid receptors are chemically blocked, meditation appears to be able to significantly reduce pain by using a different pathway. The mediation plus placebo-saline injection group also experienced a reduction in paint ratings, down 21% from baseline. However, participants in both non-meditation control groups—either with naloxone or placebo-saline injection—actually reported increases in pain.

“Our team has demonstrated across four separate studies that meditation, after a short training period, can reduce experimentally induced pain,” said Zeidan. “And now this study shows that meditation doesn’t work through the body’s opioid system. This study adds to the growing body of evidence that something unique is happening with how meditation reduces pain. These findings are especially significant to those who have built up a tolerance to opiate-based drugs and are looking for a non-addictive way to reduce their pain.”

In a follow-up study, the investigators hope to determine if and how mindfulness meditation can affect a number of various chronic pain conditions.

“At the very least, we believe that meditation could be used in conjunction with other traditional drug therapies to enhance pain relief without it producing the addictive side effects and other consequences that may arise from opiate drugs,” said Zeidan.

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Mindfulness meditation trumps placebo in pain reduction

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Press release, Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center: Scientists at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center have found new evidence that mindfulness meditation reduces pain more effectively than placebo.

This is significant because placebo-controlled trials are the recognized standard for demonstrating the efficacy of clinical and pharmacological treatments.

The research, published in the Nov. 18 issue of the Journal of Neuroscience, showed that study participants who practiced mindfulness meditation reported greater pain relief than placebo. Significantly, brain scans showed that mindfulness meditation produced very different patterns of activity than those produced by placebo to reduce pain.

“We were completely surprised by the findings,” said Fadel Zeidan, Ph.D., assistant professor of neurobiology and anatomy at Wake Forest Baptist and lead investigator of the study. “While we thought that there would be some overlap in brain regions between meditation and placebo, the findings from this study provide novel and objective evidence that mindfulness meditation reduces pain in a unique fashion.”

The study used a two-pronged approach – pain ratings and brain imaging – to determine whether mindfulness meditation is merely a placebo effect. Seventy-five healthy, pain-free participants were randomly assigned to one of four groups: mindfulness meditation, placebo meditation (“sham” meditation), placebo analgesic cream (petroleum jelly) or control.

Pain was induced by using a thermal probe to heat a small area of the participants’ skin to 49 degrees Centigrade (120.2 degrees Fahrenheit), a level of heat most people find very painful. Study participants then rated pain intensity (physical sensation) and pain unpleasantness (emotional response). The participants’ brains were scanned with arterial spin labeling magnetic resonance imaging (ASL MRI) before and after their respective four-day group interventions.

The mindfulness meditation group reported that pain intensity was reduced by 27 percent and by 44 percent for the emotional aspect of pain. In contrast, the placebo cream reduced the sensation of pain by 11 percent and emotional aspect of pain by 13 percent.

“The MRI scans showed for the first time that mindfulness meditation produced patterns of brain activity that are different than those produced by the placebo cream,” Zeidan said.

Mindfulness meditation reduced pain by activating brain regions (orbitofrontal and anterior cingulate cortex) associated with the self-control of pain while the placebo cream lowered pain by reducing brain activity in pain-processing areas (secondary somatosensory cortex).

Another brain region, the thalamus, was deactivated during mindfulness meditation, but was activated during all other conditions. This brain region serves as a gateway that determines if sensory information is allowed to reach higher brain centers. By deactivating this area, mindfulness meditation may have caused signals about pain to simply fade away, Zeidan said.

Mindfulness meditation also was significantly better at reducing pain intensity and pain unpleasantness than the placebo meditation. The placebo-meditation group had relatively small decreases in pain intensity (9 percent) and pain unpleasantness (24 percent). The study findings suggest that placebo meditation may have reduced pain through a relaxation effect that was associated with slower breathing.

“This study is the first to show that mindfulness meditation is mechanistically distinct and produces pain relief above and beyond the analgesic effects seen with either placebo cream or sham meditation,” Zeidan said.

“Based on our findings, we believe that as little as four 20-minute daily sessions of mindfulness meditation could enhance pain treatment in a clinical setting. However, given that the present study examined healthy, pain-free volunteers, we cannot generalize our findings to chronic pain patients at this time.”

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This work was supported by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, R21-AT007247, F32-AT006949 and K99-AT008238; the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, NS239426; the Mind and Life Institute Francisco J. Varela Award; and the Wake Forest Center for Integrative Medicine.

Co-authors are: Nichole M. Emerson, B.S., Suzan R. Farris, B.S., John G. McHaffie, Ph.D., and Youngkyoo Jung, Ph.D., of Wake Forest Baptist; Jenna N. Ray, Ph.D., of the University of North Carolina, Charlotte; and Robert C. Coghill, Ph.D., of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.

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Meditation relieves anxiety?

Indian Express: Scientists have found that meditation can reduce anxiety by as much as 39 per cent and have also identified the brain functions involved.

Buddhist monks and Zen masters, have known for years that meditation can lower anxiety, but the mechanism has not been clear, until now.

“Although we’ve known that meditation can reduce anxiety, we hadn’t identified the specific brain mechanisms involved in relieving anxiety in healthy individuals,” said Fadel Zeidan, postdoctoral research fellow in neurobiology and anatomy at Wake Forest Baptist and lead author of the study.

“In this study, we were able to see which areas of the brain were…

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Pain relief: meditation better than drugs, study finds

When Subhana Barzaghi was a midwife she taught breathing and meditation techniques to relieve the pain caused by contractions.

“Most of us have a habitual reaction to pain – an aversion that we react against,” Subhana, who is now a meditation teacher at North Sydney’s Bluegum Sangha, explains.

“Meditation teaches us to observe rather than get caught up in the strong sensations we are experiencing. We learn to stop labeling and therefore stop reacting. In this way, instead of tightening up against it and resisting, which causes further tension, we start to soften into it. As we do this, the pain can begin to soften and subside.”

Recently, the 5000 year old intuitive teachings of meditation …

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Meditation prevents mind-wandering

wildmind meditation news

Jordan Konnel, Yale Daily News: A recent Yale study has verified that meditation can help improve concentration skills.

Judson Brewer, assistant professor of psychiatry and director of the Yale Therapeutic Neuroscience Clinic, found that experienced meditators are able to deactivate the specific portion of their brain that is involved with mind-wandering and often correlated with unhappiness and anxiety. The findings, published in the November edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, support the theory that meditation can be scientifically studied and has neurological effects. The technique may also help meditators improve, as researchers will be able to use brain scans to determine whether meditation is actually having an effect.

Brewer and his colleagues studied the brain activity of people who meditate on a regular basis and saw that there was decreased activity in areas of the brain called the default mode network, which contains the medial prefrontal and posterior cingulate cortices. These areas have been linked to lapses of attention and disorders such as anxiety, Attention Deficit Disorder, Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder, and even the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. People who had minimal previous meditation experience, by contrast, did not see a change in brain activity from doing meditation exercizes.

The subjects were allowed to choose one of the three major types of meditation: “mindfulness of breath, loving-kindness and choiceless awareness.” Brewer said that the deactivation of the default mode network was consistent in experienced meditators across all three types.

“We now know what regions [of the brain] to go after, and we can give people specific feedback by looking at their brains and tell them whether they’re meditating correctly,” Brewer said. “These findings will help people improve their meditation practices so they can stabilize themselves and put themselves in the right state of mind.”

Meditation has already helped people to quit smoking, and in the future could help people with other addictions and with anxiety disorders, Brewer said. He added that he hopes his research facilitates teaching effective meditation in clinics.

“Their findings are pretty cool because they used analyses that haven’t been done before, and the research is pretty consistent with our current understandings,” said Fadel Zeidan, a researcher in the Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy at Wake Forest University. Fadel’s past research has shown that meditation can be used to reduce pain, to a level on par with morphine, a pain-killer.

Sara Lazar, an associate researcher in the Psychiatry Department at Massachusetts General Hospital and psychology professor at Harvard Medical School, said that while several previous studies have demonstrated the connection between the default mode network and some pathological states, this is the first study to show that meditation can strengthen the brain’s tendency to focus rather than wander.

“This data will us understand how meditation practice leads to long-lasting changes in mental state,” Lazar said.

Meditation has been linked to changes in metabolism, blood pressure, brain activation and other bodily processes, and has been used in clinical settings as a stress and pain reliever.

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Rewiring the brain to ease pain

Melinda Beck: How you think about pain can have a major impact on how it feels.

That’s the intriguing conclusion neuroscientists are reaching as scanning technologies let them see how the brain processes pain.

That’s also the principle behind many mind-body approaches to chronic pain that are proving surprisingly effective in clinical trials.

Some are as old as meditation, hypnosis and tai chi, while others are far more high tech. In studies at Stanford University’s Neuroscience and Pain Lab, subjects can watch their own brains react to pain in real-time and learn to control their response—much like building up a muscle …

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Even beginners can curb pain with meditation

Adam Cole, NPR: Meditation has long been touted as a holistic approach to pain relief. And studies show that long-time meditators can tolerate quite a bit of pain.

Now researchers at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center have found you don’t have to be a lifelong Buddhist monk to pull it off. Novices were able to tame pain after just a few training sessions.

Sounds a bit mystical, we know, but researchers using a special type of brain imaging were also able to see changes in the brain activity of newbies. Their conclusion? “A little over an hour of meditation training can dramatically reduce both the experience of pain and pain-related brain activation,” Fadel Zeidan, a neuroscientist and the study’s lead author, tells Shots. That finding’s a first, Zeidan says.

In the study, a small group of healthy medical students attended…

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four 20-minute training sessions on “mindfulness meditation” — a technique adapted from a Tibetan Buddhist form of meditation called samatha. It’s all about acknowledging and letting go of distraction.”You are trying to sustain attention in the present moment — everything is momentary so you don’t need to react,” Zeidan explains. “What that does healthwise is it reduces the stress response. The feeling of pain is a very blatant distraction.”

So how did the researchers gauge the effect? They administered a very distracting bit of pain: A small, thermal stimulator heated to 120 degrees was applied to the back of each volunteer’s right calf. The subjects reported both the intensity and unpleasantness of the pain. If pain were music, intensity would be volume. Unpleasantness would have more of an emotional component, kind of like how much you love or hate a song.

After meditation training, the subjects reported a 40 percent decrease in pain intensity and a 57 percent reduction in pain unpleasantness. And it wasn’t just their perception of pain that changed. Brain activity changed too.

Every part of the body is mapped to a specific part of the brain called the primary somatosensory cortex. “If I touch you on your left hand right above your left knuckle, there is an area in the brain that corresponds to that specific area in your hand that will be activated,” Zeidan explains. “When you are in pain it is much more activated — more intense and more widespread.”

This activation shows up on MRI brain scans. When subjects experienced the heat stimulus under normal conditions, the “right calf” part of the primary somatosensory cortex lit up. But after the subjects were trained in meditation, the activity in this region was not even detectable.

Brain images also show that meditation increased activation in areas of the brain related to cognitive control and emotion — areas where the experience of pain is built. What’s more, better meditators (those who scored higher on a standard scale of mindfulness) tended to have more activation in these areas and a lower experience of pain.

But can you achieve similar results by just approximating meditation, or believing you are in control of your pain tolerance? Zeidan says probably not. In this study, subjects who paid attention to their breathing to mimic meditation saw no significant change in pain. And, in a previous study, subjects given fake training failed to see meditation’s effects, even though they believed they were actually performing mindfulness meditation.

Zeidan says he will run some more studies to get at how meditation relieves pain. He hopes meditation can soon be applied clinically, perhaps to help patients cope with pain after surgery or chemotherapy.

“You might not need extensive training to realize pain-relief benefits,” Zeidan says. “Most people don’t have time to spend months in a monastery.”

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Meditation has the power to make dramatic changes in your physical and psychological health

Many people see meditation as an exotic form of daydreaming, or a quick fix for a stressed-out mind. My advice to them is, try it.

Meditation is difficult, at least to begin with. On my first attempt, instead of concentrating on my breathing and letting go of anything that came to mind, as instructed by my cheery Tibetan teacher, I got distracted by a string of troubled thoughts, then fell asleep. Apparently, this is normal for first-timers. Experienced meditators will assure you that it is worth persisting, however.

“Training allows us to transform the mind, to overcome destructive emotions and to dispel suffering,” says Buddhist monk Matthieu Ricard. “The numerous and profound methods that Buddhism has developed over the centuries can be used and incorporated by anyone. What is needed is enthusiasm and perseverance.”

It all sounds very rewarding, but what does science have to say on the subject?

Stories abound in the media about the transformative potential of meditative practice, but it is only in recent years empirical evidence has emerged. In the past…

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decade, researchers have used functional magnetic-resonance imaging (fMRI) to look at the brains of experienced meditators, such as Ricard, as well as beginners, and tested the effects of different meditative practices on cognition, behavior, physical and emotional health and brain plasticity.

A real scientific picture of meditation is now coming together. It suggests meditation can indeed change aspects of your psychology, temperament and physical health in dramatic ways. The studies are even starting to throw light on how meditation works.

“Time spent earnestly investigating the nature of your mind is bound to be helpful,” says Clifford Saron at the Center for Mind and Brain at the University of California, Davis. And you don’t need a Buddhist or spiritualist worldview to profit from meditation. “One can be an empiricist (in meditation), just by working with the nature of your experience.” Saron should know. He’s leading the Shamatha project, one of the most comprehensive scientific studies of meditation ever.
In 2007, Saron and a team of neuroscientists and psychologists followed 60 experienced meditators over an intensive three-month meditation retreat in the Colorado Rockies, watching for changes in their mental abilities, psychological health and physiology. Participants practiced for at least five hours a day using a method known as focused attention meditation, which involves directing attention on the tactile sensation of breathing. The first paper from the project was published in June 2010 (Psychological Science).
Headed by Katherine MacLean at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Md., the study measured the volunteers’ attention skills by showing them a succession of vertical lines flashed up on a computer screen. They then had to indicate, by clicking a mouse, whenever there was a line shorter than the rest. As the retreat progressed, MacLean and her colleagues found that as the volunteers became progressively more accurate and increasingly easy to stay focused on the task for long periods.
Other researchers have also linked meditation with improved attention. Last year, a team led by Antoine Lutz at the Waisman Laboratory for Brain Imaging and Behavior, which is part of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, reported that after three months of training in focused attention meditation, volunteers were quicker at picking out different tones among a succession of similar ones, implying their powers of sustained concentration had improved (Journal of Neuroscience).
In 2007, Lutz’s colleague Heleen Slagter, now at the University of Amsterdam, published results from a study involving a combination of focused attention and “open monitoring” or mindfulness meditation, which involves the constant monitoring of moment-by-moment experience. After three months of meditation for between 10 and 12 hours a day her subjects showed a decreased “attentional blink,” the cognitive processing delay, usually lasting about half a second, that causes people to miss a stimulus such as a number on a screen when it follows rapidly after another (PLoS Biology).
The suggestion that meditation can improve attention is worth considering, given that focus is crucial to so much in life, from the learning and application of skills to everyday judgment and decision-making, or simply concentrating on your computer screen at work without thinking about what you will be eating for dinner. But how does dwelling on your breath for a period each day lead to such a pronounced cognitive change?
One possibility is it involves working memory, the capacity to hold in the mind information needed for short-term reasoning and comprehension. The link with meditation was established recently by Amishi Jha at the University of Miami-Coral Gables. She trained a group of American marines to focus their attention using mindfulness meditation and found that this increased their working memory (Emotion).
Feeling better
Along with enhancing cognitive performance, meditation seems to have an effect on emotional well-being. A second study from researchers with the Shamatha project concluded that meditation improves general social and emotional functioning, making study participants less anxious, and more aware of and better able to manage their emotions.
The ability to manage one’s emotions could also be key to why meditation can improve physical health. Studies have shown it to be an effective treatment for eating disorders, substance abuse, psoriasis and in particular for recurrent depression and chronic pain.
Last year, psychologist Fadel Zeidan, at Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, reported that his volunteers noticed a decreased sensitivity to pain after just a few sessions of mindfulness meditation (Journal of Pain). He believes meditation doesn’t remove the sensation of pain so much as teach sufferers to control their emotional reaction to it and reduce the stress response. He is now using fMRI in an attempt to understand why that helps.
“There’s something very empowering about knowing you can alleviate some of these things yourself,” he says.
A gym for your mind
The suggestion people can become more empathic and compassionate through meditation practice has prompted psychologist Paul Ekman and Alan Wallace, a Buddhist teacher and president of the Santa Barbara Institute for Consciousness Studies, to float the idea of mental training “gymnasiums.” Like physical exercise gyms, but for the mind, these would allow people to drop in and learn to improve their emotional balance, develop their capacity for compassion and even measure their stress levels.
Others have suggested meditation could become an alternative to medication. Although this seems like a good idea, Saron is dubious. He worries thinking of meditation as a quick fix will smother some of the subtleties integral to successful practice. “When you are returning your mind to the object in hand, you have to do it with a sense of gentleness and authority, rather than develop a sense of failure when your mind wanders.”
Anyone can do it
The great thing about meditation is anyone can practice it anywhere. What’s more, you don’t have to be an expert or spend five hours a day at it to reap the benefits. The novices in Zeidan’s pain experiment reported improvements after meditating for just 20 minutes a day for three days. In a second experiment he found that similarly brief sessions can improve cognitive performance on tasks that demand continuous attention, such as remembering and reciting a series of digits (Consciousness and Cognition).
“It is possible to produce substantial changes in brain function through short-term practice of meditation,” says Richard Davidson, director of the Waisman Laboratory. He says data from a new unpublished study by his lab shows “demonstrable changes in brain function” in novice meditators after just two weeks of training for 30 minutes a day. “Even small amounts of practice can make a discernible difference.”
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How to meditate
You needn’t be an expert to reap the benefits of meditation.
There are numerous meditation styles, but the two most commonly studied by researchers are focused-attention meditation, in which the aim is to stay focused on a chosen thing such as an icon, a mantra or the breath, and mindfulness or open-monitoring meditation, where practitioners try to become aware of everything that comes into their moment-by-moment experience without reacting to it.
n For focused-attention meditation, start by sitting on a cushion or chair with your back straight and your hands in your lap and eyes closed. Then concentrate your mind on your chosen object – say your breathing, or more particularly the sensation of your breath leaving your mouth or nostrils. Try to keep it there. Probably your mind will quickly wander away, to an itch on your leg, perhaps, or to thoughts of what you will be doing later. Keep bringing it back to the breath. In time this will train the mind in three essential skills: to watch out for distractions, to “let go” of them once the mind has wandered, and to re-engage with the object of meditation. With practice, you should find it becomes increasingly easy to stay focused.
n In mindfulness meditation the aim is to monitor all the various experiences of your mind – thoughts, emotions, bodily sensations – and simply observe them, rather than trying to focus on any one of them. Instead of grasping at whatever comes to mind, which is what most of us do most of the time, the idea is to maintain a detached awareness. Those who develop this skill find it easier to manage emotions in day-to-day life.

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In pain? Try meditation

You don’t have to be a Buddhist monk to experience the health benefits of meditation. According to a new study, even a brief crash course in meditative techniques can sharply reduce a person’s sensitivity to pain.

In the study, researchers mildly burned 15 men and women in a lab on two separate occasions, before and after the volunteers attended four 20-minute meditation training sessions over the course of four days. During the second go-round, when the participants were instructed to meditate, they rated the exact same pain stimulus — a 120-degree heat on their calves — as being 57 percent less unpleasant and 40 percent less intense, on average.

“That’s pretty dramatic,” says Fadel Zeidan, Ph.D., the lead author of the study and a postdoctoral researcher at the Wake Forest University School of Medicine, in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. The reduction in pain ratings was substantially greater than those seen in similar studies involving placebo pills, hypnosis, and even morphine and other painkilling drugs, he adds.

The findings, which appear in the April 6 issue of the Journal of Neuroscience, aren’t entirely surprising. Past research has found that Buddhist-style…

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meditation — also known as mindfulness meditation — can help people cope with pain, anxiety, and a number of other physical and mental health problems. But in most cases the training takes weeks, not days.

The fact that Zeidan and his colleagues achieved these results after just 80 minutes of training is “spectacular,” says Robert Bonakdar, M.D., the director of pain management at the Scripps Center for Integrative Medicine, in San Diego.

“Although the full benefits of meditation can be realized after long-term training, our study suggests that some of the effects can be realized just for your average Joe,” Zeidan says.

The type of meditation used in the study is known as Shamatha, or “focused attention.” Like other forms of mindfulness meditation, it entails learning how to observe what’s going on in one’s mind and body without judging, and while maintaining focus on one’s breathing or a chanted mantra.

Brain scans conducted during the pain experiments showed that this technique appeared to cause a number of changes in how the participants’ brains responded to pain.

The researchers looked, for instance, at a part of the brain called the somatosensory cortex, which contains a kind of map of the body. Before meditation training, the area corresponding to the right calf was quite active when the heat was applied to the volunteers. But there was little activity in this region when they were meditating, which suggests that “meditation reduces pain by reducing the actual sensation,” Zeidan says.

Areas of the brain responsible for maintaining focus and processing emotions were also more active during meditation, and the activity was highest in the volunteers who reported the greatest reductions in pain. “There’s not just one thing happening,” Zeidan says. “Mindfulness meditation incorporates multiple mechanisms, multiple avenues for pain relief.”

The conventional wisdom has been that meditation relieves pain not by diminishing sensation but by helping people consciously control their perception of pain, says Katharine MacLean, Ph.D., a meditation researcher and postdoctoral fellow in psychology at Johns Hopkins University, in Baltimore.

However, she says, the brain scans make it clear that both processes take place: Meditation changes the nature of pain before it’s perceived and also allows people to better handle it. “Meditation is really kind of retuning your brain,” MacLean says.

An important question raised by the study is whether meditation might have the same effect on “real-life pain,” Bonakdar says. Pain — especially chronic pain — is much more complex in the real world than in a laboratory, he points out, and it can involve trauma, depression, and other physical and mental processes.

“Sometimes pain is more about suffering than it is about pain,” he says. “Sometimes that’s the hardest part of pain to treat. Maybe mindfulness meditation is just the right medicine for that problem.”

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To reduce pain (and alter your brain), try meditation

Meditation is a known painkiller, easing people’s pain perception even after brief sessions. Now a study reveals why: Meditation changes the way the brain processes pain signals.

In a study presented Nov. 16 in San Diego at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience, researchers reported that practicing a mindful awareness of the body and consciousness for just four days affects pain responses in the brain.
Brain activity decreases in areas devoted to the painful body part and in areas responsible for relaying sensory information. Meanwhile, regions that modulate pain get busy, and volunteers report that pain is less intense and less unpleasant.

Earlier studies suggested meditation reduces anxiety, promotes relaxation and helps people regulate their emotions, said study author Fadel Zeidan, a post-doctoral researcher at the Wake Forest University School of Medicine. Also, meditation may reduce pain by essentially making the physical sensations less distressing. “It’s really all about the context of the situation, of the environment,” Zeidan told LiveScience. “Meditation seems to have an overarching sense of attenuating that type of response.”

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