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Meditation cuts physical anguish
Wed, 06 Apr 2011 08:36:50 GMT
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Brain scan study has unveiled mechanisms and paths that the ancient relaxation and meditation techniques activate the brain to control pain.

A team of researchers at the Wake Forest University have been investigating the effect of two Indian mediation methods, Samatha and Vipassana, in the reduction of the intensity and unpleasantness of pain in 15 volunteers who had never meditated before.

During the study, the participants were involved in a mediation program including 20 minutes a day, for four days and then were exposed to a painful condition caused by a 120-degree heat.

According to the results to be published in The Journal of Neuroscience, both techniques reduced pain intensity by 40 percent and unpleasantness of the experience by 57 percent.

Moreover, the brain MRI of the individuals showed that this technique caused a series of changes in how brain responded to pain. For instance, the somatosensory cortex, a brain region containing a kind of map of the body, responded less actively to pain during meditation.

The finding suggested that "meditation reduces pain by decreasing the actual sensation," said Study co-author Fadel Zeidan. “This suggests that meditation reduces the information that goes through this area during the pain.”

Areas of the brain responsible for maintaining focus and processing emotions were also more active during meditation, and the activity was highest in the people who reported the greatest reductions in pain. "There's not just one thing happening," Zeidan added. "Mindfulness meditation incorporates multiple mechanisms, multiple avenues for pain relief."

A previous research has found that mindfulness meditation can help people cope with pain, anxiety, and a number of other physical and mental health problems but in most cases the training takes weeks, not days.

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