-- Alan Mozes
FRIDAY, Dec. 10 (HealthDay News) -- People who engage in Zen
meditation do feel pain, new research reveals, but they don't think
about it as much.
The observation could have a bearing on the treatment of chronic
pain among patients struggling with the impact of conditions such
as arthritis and back pain.
Pierre Rainville, a researcher at the University of Montreal,
and his colleagues report their findings in the journal
"Our previous research found that Zen meditators have lower pain sensitivity," said senior author Rainville in a news release from the journal. "The aim of the current study was to determine how they are achieving this."
"Using functional magnetic resonance imaging [MRI], we demonstrated that although the meditators were aware of the pain, this sensation wasn't processed in the part of their brains responsible for appraisal, reasoning or memory formation," Rainville noted. "We think that they feel the sensations, but cut the process short, refraining from interpretation or labeling of the stimuli as painful."
The authors' observations stem from work with 13 Zen meditators
exposed to a painful heat stimulus.
Functional MRIs were conducted of the meditators' brains as the
team gathered their self-reported perceptions of pain.
Compared with an equal number of non-meditating study
participants, the researchers found that highly experienced
meditators reported lower pain responses, as well as less activity
in those parts of the brain (the prefrontal cortex, amygdala and
hippocampus) that are linked to cognitive processes, emotion and
"Our findings lead to new insights into mind/brain function," study first author Joshua Grant, a doctoral student at the university, said in the same news release. "These results challenge current concepts of mental control, which is thought to be achieved by increasing cognitive activity or effort. Instead, we suggest it is possible to self-regulate in a more passive manner, by turning off certain areas of the brain, which in this case are normally involved in processing pain."
"The results suggest that Zen meditators may have a training-related ability to disengage some higher-order brain processes, while still experiencing the stimulus," added Rainville. "Such an ability could have widespread and profound implications for pain and emotion regulation and cognitive control. This behavior is consistent with the mindset of Zen and with the notion of mindfulness."
For more on meditation, visit the
U.S. National Center for Complementary and A...rnative
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