'Mindful people' feel less pain; MRI imaging pinpoints supporting brain activity

September 7, 2018, Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center
Greater deactivation of the posterior cingulate cortex, a brain region associated with processing self-related thoughts, was associated with lower pain and higher trait mindfulness. Credit: Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center

Ever wonder why some people seem to feel less pain than others? A study conducted at Wake Forest School of Medicine may have found one of the answers—mindfulness. "Mindfulness is related to being aware of the present moment without too much emotional reaction or judgment," said the study's lead author, Fadel Zeidan, Ph.D., assistant professor of neurobiology and anatomy at the medical school, part of Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. "We now know that some people are more mindful than others, and those people seemingly feel less pain."

The study is an article in press, published ahead-of-print in the journal Pain.

The researchers analyzed data obtained from a study published in 2015 that compared to placebo analgesia. In this follow-up study, Zeidan sought to determine if dispositional mindfulness, an individual's innate or natural level of mindfulness, was associated with lower pain sensitivity, and to identify what brain mechanisms were involved.

In the study, 76 healthy volunteers who had never meditated first completed the Freiburg Mindfulness Inventory, a reliable clinical measurement of mindfulness, to determine their baseline levels. Then, while undergoing functional magnetic resonance imaging, they were administered painful heat stimulation (120°F).

Whole brain analyses revealed that higher dispositional mindfulness during painful heat was associated with greater deactivation of a brain region called the , a central neural node of the default mode network. Further, in those that reported higher pain, there was greater activation of this critically important brain region.

The default mode network extends from the posterior cingulate cortex to the medial prefrontal cortex of the brain. These two brain regions continuously feed information back and forth. This network is associated with processing feelings of self and mind wandering, Zeidan said.

"As soon as you start performing a task, the connection between these two in the disengages and the brain allocates information and processes to other neural areas," he said.

"Default mode deactivates whenever you are performing any kind of task, such as reading or writing. Default mode network is reactivated whenever the individual stops performing a task and reverts to self-related thoughts, feelings and emotions. The results from our study showed that mindful individuals are seemingly less caught up in the experience of pain, which was associated with lower pain reports."

The study provided novel neurobiological information that showed people with higher mindfulness ratings had less activation in the central nodes (posterior cingulate cortex) of the default and experienced less pain. Those with lower mindfulness ratings had greater activation of this part of the brain and also felt more pain, Zeidan said.

"Now we have some new ammunition to target this region in the development of effective pain therapies. Importantly this work shows that we should consider one's level of mindfulness when calculating why and how one feels less or more pain," Zeidan said. "Based on our earlier research, we know we can increase mindfulness through relatively short periods of meditation training, so this may prove to be an effective way to provide pain relief for the millions of people suffering from chronic ."

Explore further: Mindfulness meditation trumps placebo in pain reduction

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6 comments

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Anonym518498
1 / 5 (4) Sep 07, 2018
another waste of taxpayer money, what a joke
NoStrings
1 / 5 (1) Sep 07, 2018
Mindful, eye? You get yourself in a state of stupor and market it as 'mindful'?
Obvious result: greater deactivation of a brain region called the posterior cingulate cortex. Feel less pain, think no thoughts. SO?
Just spending a lot of effort and time to find a partial 'off' switch from life.
Just call it 'mindless', because it is.
Spaced out Engineer
5 / 5 (2) Sep 07, 2018
Not a waste, but inconsistent with some other practitioners advice. I have heard to not resist the pain, as it is multiplied by this resistance. Clearly, like the emotional pathways, there are multiple configurations for C5 fiber inhibition and excitation. Pain with meaning, releases opioids in the brain, such as vagal nerve sympathetic systems tied to empathy. Where parasympathetic systems may disassociate.

So speaking of neighboring vice and virtue, we can disassociate or wait. There maybe some discomfort, but you should not suffer. Isotropic accounts with operational difference, leaning in or tracing out.
EnricM
not rated yet Sep 10, 2018
This fits into the whole idea of the "central commander" that is so much talked about in sports.
People with longer and sound endurance training do in fact engage in something that could be considered
"mindful meditation": When you are engaged in endurance or resistance sports you are doing a sort of "body scan" being aware of your whole body, perceiving some effects that may be felt by some as "painful" or as of extreme discomfort yet you learn to filter out these stimuli that are just a part of the exertion.

This is why many complain about pain in the knees or directly call themselves injured while knees are perfectly fine and the "pain" is just the normal burn from exertion or the ITBS may just be a temporary swelling that a trained athlete will only pay a split second of attention.

Interesting study.
gh77
not rated yet Sep 10, 2018
The default mode network (DMN), as the article points out, involves activation of the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC), which is in contrast to the task positive network (TPN), which involves the dorsal lateral prefrontal cortex (dlPFC). The later is active in mindfulness while the former is active in self referential thinking.

The two centers, mPFC and dlPFC have a reciprocal relationship, the activation of one inhibits the activation of the other. They also have opposing effects on the nuclei that express serotonin. The mPFC inhibits serotonin secretion while the dlPFC does not. One of he many actions of serotonin is inhibition of pain signal transmission from cord to cortex..
TotalAHole
not rated yet Sep 10, 2018
If simulation theory is real then I must be using game genie

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