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Neuroimaging of meditation's effect on brain reactivity to pain

Orme-Johnson, David W.a; Schneider, Robert H.a; Son, Young D.b; Nidich, Sanforda; Cho, Zang-Heeb

doi: 10.1097/01.wnr.0000233094.67289.a8

Some meditation techniques reduce pain, but there have been no studies on how meditation affects the brain's response to pain. Functional magnetic resonance imaging of the response to thermally induced pain applied outside the meditation period found that long-term practitioners of the Transcendental Meditation technique showed 40–50% fewer voxels responding to pain in the thalamus and total brain than in healthy matched controls interested in learning the technique. After the controls learned the technique and practiced it for 5 months, their response decreased by 40–50% in the thalamus, prefrontal cortex, total brain, and marginally in the anterior cingulate cortex. The results suggest that the Transcendental Meditation technique longitudinally reduces the affective/motivational dimension of the brain's response to pain.

aInstitute for Natural Medicine and Prevention, Maharishi University of Management, Fairfield, Iowa, USA

bDepartments of Radiological Sciences & Psychiatry and Human Behavior, MED SCI I, University of California at Irvine, Irvine, California, USA

Correspondence and requests for reprints to David Orme-Johnson, PhD, 191 Dalton Drive, Seagrove Beach, FL 32459, USA

Tel: +1 850 231 2866; fax: +1 850 231 5012; e-mail:

Sponsorship: This study was funded by NIH: National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine award #5-IP50-AT00082-05-Developmental Research component (CFDA #93.213).

Received 15 May 2006; revised 10 June 2006; accepted 13 June 2006

© 2006 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.