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Demystifying Meditation, Brain Imaging Illustrates How Meditation Reduces Pain

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    Demystifying Meditation, Brain Imaging Illustrates How Meditation Reduces Pain 06 Apr 2011 Meditation produces powerful pain-relieving effects in the brain,
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      Demystifying Meditation, Brain Imaging Illustrates How Meditation Reduces Pain
      06 Apr 2011

      Meditation produces powerful pain-relieving
      effects in the brain, according to new research p
      ublished in the April 6 edition of the
      Journal of Neuroscience.

      "This is the first study to show that only a
      little over an hour of meditation training
      can dramatically reduce both the experience
      of pain and pain-related brain activation,"
      said Fadel Zeidan, Ph.D., lead author of the
      study and post-doctoral research fellow at Wake
      Forest Baptist Medical Center.

      "We found a big effect about a 40 percent reduction
      in pain intensity and a 57 percent reduction in
      pain unpleasantness. Meditation produced a greater
      reduction in pain than even morphine or other
      pain-relieving drugs, which typically reduce
      pain ratings by about 25 percent."

      For the study, 15 healthy volunteers who had
      never meditated attended four, 20-minute classes
      to learn a meditation technique known as focused
      attention. Focused attention is a form of
      mindfulness meditation where people are taught
      to attend to the breath and let go of distracting
      thoughts and emotions.

      Both before and after meditation training, study
      participants' brain activity was examined using
      a special type of imaging -- arterial spin labeling
      magnetic resonance imaging (ASL MRI) -- that captures
      longer duration brain processes, such as meditation,
      better than a standard MRI scan of brain function.
      During these scans, a pain-inducing heat device
      was placed on the participants' right legs. This
      device heated a small area of their skin to 120°
      Fahrenheit, a temperature that most people find
      painful, over a 5-minute period.

      The scans taken after meditation training showed
      that every participant's pain ratings were reduced,
      with decreases ranging from 11 to 93 percent,
      Zeidan said.

      At the same time, meditation significantly reduced
      brain activity in the primary somatosensory cortex,
      an area that is crucially involved in creating
      the feeling of where and how intense a painful
      stimulus is. The scans taken before meditation
      training showed activity in this area was very
      high. However, when participants were meditating
      during the scans, activity in this important
      pain-processing region could not be detected.

      The research also showed that meditation increased
      brain activity in areas including the anterior
      cingulate cortex, anterior insula and the
      orbito-frontal cortex. "These areas all shape
      how the brain builds an experience of pain from
      nerve signals that are coming in from the body,"
      said Robert C. Coghill, Ph.D., senior author of
      the study and associate professor of neurobiology
      and anatomy at Wake Forest Baptist.

      "Consistent with this function, the more that
      these areas were activated by meditation the
      more that pain was reduced. One of the reasons
      that meditation may have been so effective in
      blocking pain was that it did not work at just
      one place in the brain, but instead reduced pain
      at multiple levels of processing."

      Zeidan and colleagues believe that meditation has
      great potential for clinical use because so little
      training was required to produce such dramatic
      pain-relieving effects. "This study shows that
      meditation produces real effects in the brain and
      can provide an effective way for people to
      substantially reduce their pain without medications,"
      Zeidan said.

      Funding for the study was provided by the Mind
      and Life Institute in Boulder, Colo., and the
      Center for Biomolecular Imaging at Wake Forest Baptist.

      Source: Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center
      --------------------------------------------------
      Article URL: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/221411.php
      This article is being shared for non-commercial
      purposes only and thus falls under the fair Share statutes.
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