The subjective experience of one’s environment is constructed by interactions among sensory, cognitive, and affective processes. For centuries, meditation has been thought to influence such processes by enabling a non-evaluative representation of sensory events. To better understand how meditation influences the sensory experience, we examined brain activity by which meditation influences pain. After four-days (20m/d) of mindfulness-based mental training, meditation during noxious stimulation significantly reduced pain-unpleasantness by 57% and pain-intensity ratings by 40% when compared to non-meditation. Functional brain imaging revealed that meditation modulates pain via multiple mechanisms characterized by a reduction of pain-related activity in the primary somatosensory cortex, attenuation of pain-intensity in the anterior cingulate and anterior insula, and regulation of affective responses in the orbito-frontal cortex and thalamus. These data suggest that meditation reframes the contextual evaluation of sensory events and provide a novel perspective into the brain mechanisms involved in meditation and meditation-related pain relief.

Fadel Zeidan, PhD

Wake Forest University

Convening Faculty, Fellow, Grantee

Fadel Zeidan, Ph.D., is the director of the Brain Mechanisms of Pain and Health Laboratory at Wake Forest School of Medicine. For the last sixteen years, his research has focused … MORE

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