The findings, by scientists at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, NC, are the first to show that patterns of brain activity produced by mindfulness meditation differ from those produced by a placebo cream.
Contemplatives have long reported the benefits of mindfulness meditation on pain, and brain imaging technology has revealed more about the mechanisms involved. Whether the benefits stem from religious practices or mindfulness itself has remained unclear.
Meditation-related pain reduction is now a rapidly emerging field, but more specific experimental evidence has been needed to advance it.
Lead author Fadel Zaidan, PhD, and colleagues have previously noted the effect of expectation, distraction, attention, beliefs, placebo, hypnosis, stress, anxiety, mood and emotional state on pain. Enhanced cognitive and emotional control have been shown to help decrease pain; mindfulness could play a role.