Transcendental Meditation can reduce thalamic response to pain by 40-50% – highlighting how relaxation training needs to be an integral part of chronic pain treatment
Neuroreport. 2006 Aug 21;17(12):1359-1363.
Neuroimaging of meditation’s effect on brain reactivity to pain.
Orme-Johnson DW, Schneider RH, Son YD, Nidich S, Cho ZH.
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 meditationperiod 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.
Comment – Scientific American had an article on virtual reality that showed when someone was distracted, pain barely registered on fMRI. Now it appears relaxation training through TA can help do the same. With training subjects with chronic pain can also shut down some of the brain’s responsiveness to pain. What is popular at the moment is a form of meditation called mindfulness mediation. I would be interested in what resources have been found useful for relaxation training in chronic pain. In our clinic, Dr. Alfred Bromley is doing hypnosis but I am not sure re access to free services elsewhere – any comments?