Neuroimaging of meditation's effect on brain reactivity to pain

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Abstract

Some meditation techniques reduce pain, but there have been no studies on how meditation affects the brain's response to pain. Functional magnetic resonance imaging of the response to thermally induced pain applied outside the meditation period found that long-term practitioners of the Transcendental Meditation technique showed 40–50% fewer voxels responding to pain in the thalamus and total brain than in healthy matched controls interested in learning the technique. After the controls learned the technique and practiced it for 5 months, their response decreased by 40–50% in the thalamus, prefrontal cortex, total brain, and marginally in the anterior cingulate cortex. The results suggest that the Transcendental Meditation technique longitudinally reduces the affective/motivational dimension of the brain's response to pain.

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