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Saturday, 5 November 2011

Over an hour of meditation reduces pain

A little over an hour of meditation produces powerful pain-relieving effects in the brain, a new study shows.

"This is the first study to show that only a little over an hour of meditation training can dramatically reduce both the experience of pain and pain-related brain activation," said Fadel Zeidan, who led the study.

"We found a big effect - about a 40 percent reduction in pain intensity and a 57 percent reduction in pain unpleasantness," added Zeidan, post-doctoral research fellow at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Centre.

"Meditation produced a greater reduction in pain than even morphine or other pain-relieving drugs, which typically reduce pain ratings by about 25 percent," said Zeidan, reports the Journal of Neuroscience.

For the study, a group of healthy volunteers who had never meditated attended four, 20-minute classes to learn a meditation technique known as focused attention, according to a Wake Forest statement.

Focused attention is a form of mindfulness meditation where people are taught to attend to the breath and let go of distracting thoughts and emotions.

Both before and after meditation training, participants` brain activity was examined using a special type of imaging -- arterial spin labelling magnetic resonance imaging (ASL MRI) -- that captures longer duration brain processes, such as meditation, better than a standard MRI scan of brain function.

During these scans, a pain-inducing heat device was placed on the participants` right legs. This device heated a small area of their skin to 120 degrees Fahrenheit, a temperature that most people find painful, over a five-minute period.

The scans taken after meditation training showed that every participant`s pain ratings were reduced, with decreases ranging from 11 to 93 percent, Zeidan said.

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