Welcome to my blog—a free-spirited exploration of spirituality, mindfulness, philosophy and literature. A member of the Australian and New Zealand Mental Health Association, I lectured at the NSW Institute of Psychiatry (now the Health Education and Training Institute) for 14 years and at the University of Technology, Sydney for 16 years. I am now a freelance lecturer, speaker and facilitator, presenting classes at Sydney's Wellness Empowerment and Training Institute, Sydney U3A and elsewhere.
A study conducted at
Wake Forest School of Medicine has shown that an individual's innate or natural
level of mindfulness is associated with a greater tolerance for pain. In other
words, they feel less pain than
Dr Fadel Zeidan
analysed data obtained from a study published in 2015 that compared mindfulness
meditation to placebo analgesia. In this follow-up study, the study's lead author, Dr Fadel Zeidan, assistant professor of neurobiology and anatomy at the medical school,
part of Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, sought
to determine if dispositional mindfulness—that is, 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 posterior
cingulate cortex, 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
‘As soon as you
start performing a task, the connection between these two brain regions in the
default mode network disengages and the brain allocates information and
processes to other neural areas,’ Zeidan said.
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
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 network 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 brain 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 mindfulness meditation training, so this
may prove to be an effective way to provide pain relief for the millions of
people suffering from chronic pain.’
Zeidan F et al. ‘Neural Mechanisms Supporting the Relationship between Dispositional
Mindfulness and Pain.’ PAIN, 2018; 1 DOI: 10.1097/j.pain.0000000000001344
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