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Neuroimaging of meditation's effect on brain reactivity to pain

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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.
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Neuroimaging of meditation’s effect on brain reactivity to pain
David W. Orme-Johnsona, Robert H. Schneidera, Young D. Sonb, Sanford Nidicha, and Zang-
Hee Chob
a Institute for Natural Medicine and Prevention, Maharishi University of Management, Fairfield, Iowa, USA
b Departments of Radiological Sciences & Psychiatry and Human Behavior, MED SCI I, University of
California at Irvine, Irvine, California, USA
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.
anterior cingulate cortex; functional magnetic resonance imaging; neuroimaging; pain; prefrontal
cortex; thalamus; Transcendental Meditation
Since the 1990s, neuroimaging studies have provided basic knowledge of how the brain
responds to pain and how treatments influence this response [1,2]. These studies have verified
the hypothesis that the brain’s response to pain is complex, involving multiple brain regions
often referred to as the ‘pain matrix’ [1,2]. An NIH technology assessment conference on
behavioral approaches to treating chronic pain found strong evidence that some forms of
meditation reduce pain [3,4], yet the effects of meditation on pain have not previously been
studied using neuroimaging.
Different meditation techniques have different effects on the brain that are specific to the
cognitive requirements of the techniques [5–8] and may affect pain differently. We suggest
four mechanisms by which meditation could reduce pain: (1) distract attention away from it;
(2) resolve the underlying physiological condition responsible for chronic pain; (3) reduce
anticipatory anxiety and general stress reactivity and other factors that amplify the pain
response; and (4) reduce pain-related distress, perhaps through increasing endogenous
endorphins. Techniques that absorb the mind into imagination and/or into some interesting
sensory experience and away from action, with their corresponding changes in the brain [5],
may be expected to work by mechanism 1; distract attention from pain. A form of mindfulness
meditation illustrates mechanism 2. It requires the patient to put attention on the source of pain
Correspondence and requests for reprints to David Orme-Johnson, PhD, 191 Dalton Drive, Seagrove Beach, FL 32459, USA Tel: + 1850
2312866; fax: + 1850 2315012; e-mail:
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Author Manuscript
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Published in final edited form as:
Neuroreport. 2006 August 21; 17(12): 1359–1363.
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to allow it to resolve, with the result that it reduces present-moment pain and associated pain
symptoms [9].
The Transcendental Meditation technique appears to reduce pain through mechanisms 2–4. It
is an effortless process of attending to a mantra as it becomes progressively more refined, until
the mind transcends the subtlest level of thought to experience unbounded (transcendental)
consciousness [10]. A magnetoelectroencephalography study localized the source of the
widespread α-electroencephalogram seen during the technique in the prefrontal cortex and
anterior cingulate [11]. A positron emission tomography study found that it increases blood
flow in the prefrontal cortex, the executive control center [8], apparently associated with the
voluntary (though effortless) deployment of attention on the mantra. The technique also
reduces activity in the thalamus and the medial occipital lobe [8], apparently related to
withdrawal of the mind from sensory processing, and it reduces hippocampal activity [8],
related to reduced mental processing of short-term into long-term memory. Respiratory rate
and plasma lactate decrease and basal skin resistance increases, indicating a state of
psychophysiological quiescence [12] during which the endogenous sources of pain could
resolve via the action of homeostatic mechanisms.
The resolution of the physiological sources of pain (mechanism 2) through the Transcendental
Meditation program is indicated by reduced frequency of pain symptoms in industrial workers
[13], reduced headaches and backaches [14], decreased pain during pregnancy and childbirth,
[15] and reduced medical care utilization for pain-related conditions such as chest and
abdominal pain [16]. Evidence for mechanism 3 is that the Transcendental Meditation
technique reduces trait anxiety [17], produces lower resting baseline levels of sympathetic
arousal outside the practice as well as improving stress reactivity [12].
Mechanism 4 is suggested by the finding that it decreases distress from acute pain caused by
the cold-pressor test and increases the ability to withstand the test longer, but does not change
sensory ratings of pain intensity [18]. This implies that the practice may impact the affective/
motivational dimension of pain more than the sensory dimension. Individuals who have high
sensitivity to pain show a greater response in the prefrontal and anterior cingulate cortices than
less pain sensitive people, with no difference in the thalamus [19]. Moreover, studies have
associated the affective dimension of pain with the anterior cingulate cortex [1,2,20].
A recent magnetic resonance imaging study demonstrated the principle of experience-
dependent cortical plasticity associated with meditative practice [21]. Our specific a priori
hypothesis was that the Transcendental Meditation program would have a long-term effect of
reducing responses in the affective component of the pain matrix. As the anterior cingulate
appears to mediate how emotions direct the focus of attention via the prefrontal cortex [22],
we reasoned that reduced distress through the practice may also reduce the response of the
prefrontal cortex to pain. As the thalamus is involved in the nonspecific arousal component of
the attention system [1], which could be expected to relax with decreases in anticipatory
anxiety, we also hypothesized that the thalamic response would decrease.
The research protocol was approved by the human subjects committees of the University of
California at Irvine and Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield, Iowa. All
participants signed an informed consent form. The study used a ‘partial crossover’ design. At
pretest, long-term meditators were compared with nonpractitioners interested in learning the
technique. The healthy control nonpractitioners then learned and practiced the technique for
approximately 5 months, after which both groups were posttested on the same pain protocol.
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A total of 24 normal, right-handed, healthy, pain-free participants (12 men and 12 women)
were recruited from the Transcendental Meditation Centers of Orange County and Los
Angeles. The healthy controls (n = 12) were individuals who had attended an introductory
lecture and were interested in learning the Transcendental Meditation technique. They were
recruited from individuals who met the age criterion (45 + for men, 50 + for women). The long-
term meditators (n = 12) were individuals of similar age known to the center directors and who
had been practicing the technique for a mean of 31.3±2.3 years. The mean age±standard
deviation for the healthy controls was 57.8±3.3, compared with 56.3±5.8 years for the long-
term meditators, a nonsignificant difference. In all, there were seven men and five women long-
term meditators and five men and seven women healthy controls, a nonsignificant difference.
Intervention—The Transcendental Meditation technique was taught in a standard 4-day
course, and practiced for 20 min twice daily [10]. Instruction of the healthy controls in the
technique was funded by the supporting grant.
Functional neuroimaging
The study was conducted at the Functional Brain Imaging Laboratory of the University of
California at Irvine under the direction of Dr Z. H. Cho. The functional magnetic resonance
imaging (fMRI) methodology employed single-block stimulation and dynamic regression
analysis, which has previously been described [23]. The experimental protocol at both the
pretest and the posttest 5 months later entailed a total imaging time of 3 min (60 volumes) for
acquisition of fMRI data: 1.5 min of immersion of the left index and middle fingers in warm
water (43°C) to maintain them at a standard, uniform baseline temperature, then 30 s of the
pain condition of the same fingers immersed in hot water (approximately 51°C), followed by
immersion of the fingers in the warm (43°C) water again for 1 min. The fingers were immersed
from the distal phalanx to the proximal interphalangeal joint and were not moved. An assistant
placed the participant’s hand on a structure to support their arm, moved the hot water to immerse
the participant’s fingers into it, and timed the immersions.
Water temperature calibration was confirmed before every fMRI scan and immediately after
the fingers were removed from the hot water. At pretest, the mean temperature of the hot water
was 50.75±1.1°C for both groups for the initial comparison of the two groups. At posttest 5
months later, after the healthy controls had learned and regularly practiced the Transcendental
Meditation technique, the temperature was 51.5±0.9°C for the healthy controls and 51.4±0.9°
C for the long-term meditators. For data processing, the first 30 s (10 volumes) were discarded.
The rest of the data, 30 s (10 volumes) during stimulation and 1 min (20 volumes) after recent
stimulation, were compared with the 1 min (20 volumes) before stimulation.
The fMRI imaging yielded blood oxygen level-dependent (BOLD) signal intensity, indirectly
reflecting changes in neural activity during the finger immersion in hot water. Functional
measurements were conducted on a 1.5 T Philips MRI system (Philips Electronics North
America Corporation, New York, New York USA) equipped with a head volume coil, using
a T2*-weighted echo-planar imaging sequence. Whole volume data were acquired in
contiguous 25 axial slices with 5 mm slice thickness. The voxel size of the image was 4 mm
× 4 mm × 5 mm within a 256 mm × 256 mm field of view. The 60 volumes of image were
acquired during each experimental session, with repetition time/echo time = 3000/35 ms.
To prevent excessive head movements, the participant’s head was fixed by placing foam pads
on each side of the head within the head cage, and participants were instructed to constrain
head movement as much as possible. Possible motion during the experiment was corrected
using a realignment algorithm in the SPM99 routine [23,24]. A response was defined as an
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increase in the BOLD response equal to one voxel above a threshold T = 3.8 (i.e. P < 0.0001)
during the hot water compared with the warm water. This high threshold was used to filter out
artifacts in the BOLD response. The same threshold was used uniformly across participants at
both the pretest and the posttest to provide valid interparticipant and intraparticipant
comparisons of the significance of the signals evoked by the same intensity of the heat stimulus.
The images were transformed to the Montreal Neurological Institute space to spatially
normalize them to the same coordinates. The areas studied were the left and right thalami, left
and right anterior cingulate cortex, and prefrontal cortex (equivalent to Brodmann’s areas 9,
10, 11, 12), which were defined according to the Montreal Neurological Institute brain, using
algorithms from routine SPM99 [24]. The central coordinates (mediolateral, anterior–posterior,
and dorsoventral, in mm) for the different regions were the thalamus (±14, 18, 8), prefrontal
cortex (0, 54, 16), anterior cingulate cortex (±4, 34, 26). The number of voxels subtended by
each area were thalamus = 5900; prefrontal cortex = 39 951; anterior cingulate cortex = 1320;
and total brain = 510 340. The data were the number and percent of voxels within each brain
area studied that responded to pain. Regression was used to replace artifact or missing data in
one session for three of the participants, two healthy controls and one long-term meditator. The
data were analyzed by a two-way ANOVA, providing results for groups, trials, and the groups
× trials interaction.
Psychophysical assessment
Immediately following each fMRI acquisition at both the pretest and the posttest, participants
were given the Pain Visual Analog Scale [25]. The scale instructs the participant to ‘Please
make a mark on the (10 cm) line below to indicate your experience somewhere in the range
from ‘no pain’ to the ‘worst possible pain’. The score is the length of the line in centimeters
from the left (low end) to the mark.
The long-term practitioners of Transcendental Meditation did not significantly differ from the
healthy controls on the Pain Visual Analog Scale rating of the degree of pain induced by the
hot water, either at pretest, at posttest, or collapsed across trials. Both groups, however,
decreased on pain ratings by 25% from pretesting to posttesting 5 months later (Ps<0.02). The
groups × trials interaction for the Pain Visual Analog Scale was not significant, indicating that
the groups changed in a similar way over the trial.
Despite the similarity in their participative ratings of the painfulness of the thermal stimulus,
the two groups were quite different in their fMRI responses to it. At pretest, the long-term
meditators showed a 40–50% lower response than the healthy controls in the brain regions
studied. Moreover, after learning and practicing the Transcendental Meditation technique for
5 months, the brain response in the healthy controls then decreased by 40–50%, with no
significant further change in the long-term meditators. The brain responses of the two groups
at posttest did not statistically differ (see Fig. 1).
No significant main effects exist for groups or trials. The group × trials interactions indicated
that the healthy controls decreased more from pretest to posttest than the long-term meditators
for the thalamus (P < 0.02) and total brain (P < 0.02), but with no significant difference for the
prefrontal cortex (P < 0.2) or anterior cingulate cortex (P < 0.28).
We hypothesized that the Transcendental Meditation program would reduce the brain’s
response to pain because neuroimaging and autonomic studies indicate that it produces a state
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of psychophysiological quiescence [12], which over time resolves the physiological conditions
underlying various kinds pain [13–16]. In time, it reduces trait anxiety [17], improves stress
reactivity [12], and decreases distress from acute pain [18]. On the basis of the literature [1,
2], these factors could be expected to reduce the response of the affective component of the
pain matrix to acute pain, seen as reductions in the anterior cingulate cortex, prefrontal cortex,
and thalamus.
All tests in this study were conducted outside the meditation period, not during it, and therefore
distraction from pain by meditation (mechanism 1) is not relevant here. As the study was on
acute laboratory pain rather than on chronic endogenous pain, resolution of the physiological
sources of the pain (mechanism 2) is also not relevant. The study results are relevant to
mechanism 3, reduced general arousal and anticipatory anxiety that may attenuate the pain
response; and mechanism 4, decreased distress caused by pain.
We found that long-term meditators showed 40–50% less cerebral blood flow response to the
painful thermal stimulus in the brain area studied than did healthy controls, but did not differ
on their participative ratings of pain. Moreover, after learning the technique and practicing it
for 5 months, the response of healthy controls then decreased by 40–50% compared with no
significant change in the long-term participants, and the two groups did not differ significantly
at posttest.
The above discrepancy between subjective reports of pain intensity and neural correlates of
the pain response seems unusual, given that they usually covary [19]. It, however, accords with
previous research on the Transcendental Meditation technique showing that practitioners’
sensory experience of pain is just as intense as controls, but that they are less distressed by it
As the anterior cingulate cortex is involved in the affective/motivational dimension of the pain
response [1,2,20], we were somewhat surprised that this area showed the least significant
effects of meditation. It should be noted, however, that after the controls learned to meditate,
their largest pretest to posttest change was for the anterior cingulate cortex (59.5%). The large
mean percent decrease, together with low statistical significance, indicates high variability
among participants arising from considerable individual differences in how they responded.
As individuals with different sensitivities to pain respond differently in the anterior cingulate
cortex [19], future studies that use pain sensitivity as a grouping variable might help clarify
the effect of meditation on this area.
Although self-selection of participants is a possible limitation of the study, replication with the
longitudinal, partial crossover design, along with matching for age, sex, and interest in
meditation, provides strong internal validity. In addition, it seems unlikely that the results can
be explained by expectation because there is no suggestion in the Transcendental Meditation
course that it would reduce pain. It also seems unlikely that the reduction in the total cerebral
blood flow response could be attributed to a reduction in general cardiovascular response to
pain [6], because previous research has shown that meditators do not show less of the heart
rate response to noxious stimuli than controls [18]. We suggest that the reduced total brain
response to pain can also be attributed to a general reduction in expectation anxiety and distress.
The Transcendental Meditation program appears to longitudinally reduce the brain’s response
to acute pain along major sectors of the affective dimension of the pain matrix, apparently
related to reduced distress, but with no reduction in the sensory experience of pain intensity
[18]. This may help explain the reduction in stress reactivity and improvements in
cardiovascular disease found to result from practice of this program. Future research could
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focus on its concomitant effects on endogenous endorphins, on other areas of the pain matrix,
as well as cardiovascular and autonomic responses.
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).
The authors wish to thank Cindy and Barry Katz and Sibongile West of the Orange County and Los Angeles
Transcendental Meditation Centers, and Drs Vernon Barnes, Ken Walton, and Laura Zambreanu for their fine editorial
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Fig. 1.
Group means with standard error bars of the percent functional magnetic resonance imaging
voxels responding to the painful thermal stimulus in each brain region for the healthy controls
and long-term meditators at pretest and 5 months later at posttest. At pretest, before the healthy
controls had learned the Transcendental Meditation technique, the groups differed significantly
in the thalamus and total brain, with a trend for the prefrontal cortex, but not for the anterior
cingulate cortex. At posttest there was no significant difference between the groups on any
variable. After the healthy controls learned to meditate and practiced it for 5 months, they
decreased in the thalamus, prefrontal cortex, total brain, and anterior cingulate cortex (trend),
whereas the long-term meditators did not change significantly on any variable.
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Autism is a complex neurodevelopmental disorder affecting systems of the body and behavior. Its growth rate is approximately 3% in children. This review was undertaken to search and critically analyze the literature about musculoskeletal, cardiovascular and neurological function, and behavioral outcomes of yoga interventions for individuals with autism spectrum disorder. This systematic review has four-stage screening process and rigorous critical appraisal, which resulted in the inclusion of 36 studies. As a result, in children with autism spectrum disorder with (i) the presence of muscle weakness: yoga may decrease sympathetic activity and autonomic arousal and thereby improve handgrip strength (HGS); (ii) lowered cardiac vagal tone and elevated sympathetic tone, resulting in autonomic abnormalities including impaired language, attention, and cognition: yoga reduces blood pressure and improves attention without sympathetic activation; (iii) slower reaction times and greater standard deviations: Pranayama practice enhances central processing ability; and (iv) sensory processing issues with behavior regulations give rise to the presence of repetitive behaviors: yoga improves sensory integration, motor imitations, communications, and their own thoughts and behaviors related to physical, social, and emotional well-being. Hence, this review of clinical studies suggests that approach built on yoga intervention is worth pursuing. Desired outcomes include reduction of autism rate and improved quality of life.
DER VOLLSTÄNDIGE TEXT IST IN DEUTSCH NICHT MEHR VERFÜGBAR UND WIRD BALD ALS BUCH BEI ASANGER PUBLIZIERT - ABSTRACT - Der Text gibt einen kurzen Überblick über einige historische, traditionelle vedische bzw. buddhistische Hintergründe der Transzendentalen Meditation (TM) und der Achtsamkeitsmeditation (Anapanasati). Es wird ein breiter Überblick über die bisherige Forschung zu beiden Meditationsformen gegeben. Abschließend wird ein objektiver Vergleich der Effekte beider Techniken, sowohl kurz- (vor der Meditationspraxis versus danach) als auch langfristig (mit einem Abstand von einigen Monaten), anhand der Messung der Herzfrequenz-Variabilität (HRV) vorgestellt. Die HRV wurde bei jedem Probanden mehrmals gemessen, wiederum mit kurzfristigen Standard- (5 Minuten) und Langzeitmessungen (25 Minuten) während der Meditation. Ein weiterer Vergleich der beiden spezifischen meditationstypischen Ergebnisse mit verwandten HRV-Typologien aus anderen klinischen und persönlichkeitspsychologischen Messungen wurde hinzugefügt, um eine Art grobe, aber empirisch fundierte ungefähre charakteristische Typologie ("Persönlichkeit") für beide Meditationsformen zu erhalten.
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Objectives Mindfulness meditation (MM) is an attention and acceptance–based intervention effective for managing chronic pain. Current literature predominately focuses on the behavioral effects of short-term mindfulness-based programs for pain reduction. However, the long-term potential of MM and its effect on pain processing are less well understood. Furthermore, it is possible that short- and long-term effects of MM are underpinned by different neural processes. This systematic review was undertaken to better understand the short- and long-term effects of MM on brain processes related to pain by comparing pain-related neural process in novice and expert MM. Methods A literature search was performed to identify relevant studies using MRI/fMRI and EEG/MEG. Results A total of 14 studies were selected: 1 MEG and fMRI, 5 EEG, and 8 MRI/fMRI. Overall, findings across studies are consistent in reporting reduced pain ratings in both novice and expert meditators. However, different brain processes appeared to underlie this effect with experts showing greater activity in the somatosensory regions and novices showing reduced activity. The available evidence also indicates a greater dissociation between pain salience and pain unpleasantness in expert meditators along with greater changes in the respective brain regions, suggesting a dissociation between sensory and the cognitive-affective dimensions of pain. For novice meditators, however, the evidence is less conclusive. Conclusions Given the ongoing nature of chronic pain, the long-term effects of mindfulness meditation should be explored to assess whether the effects of short-term programs remain post treatment.
- Publication as a book by Asanger Verlag in preparation - Abstract - The text reviews shortly some historical traditional vedic resp. buddhistic backgrounds of transcendental meditation (TM) and mindfulness meditation (anapanasati). A broad overview of previous research on both forms of meditation is given. Finally an objective comparison of the effects of both techniques, both short (before meditation practice versus afterwards) and long term (with an interval of some months), is presented using the measurement of heart-rate-variability (HRV). HRV was measured several times with each subject, again using short term standard (5 Minutes) and long term (25 Minutes) measurements during meditation. A further comparison of the two specific meditation-typical results with related HRV typologies from other clinical and personality psychological measurements was added to yield some sort of a rough but empirically founded approximate characteristic typology ("personality") for both meditation forms.
Physical medicine providers work to cure organic aspects of disease while simultaneously enhancing quality of life and well-being. Mind-body interventions are evidence-based, cost-effective approaches to serve these aims. This article enhances provider knowledge and acceptance of the most effective and prevalent mind-body modalities: meditation, guided imagery, clinical hypnosis, and biofeedback. The scientific evidence is strongest for mind-body applications for chronic pain, primary headache, cardiac rehabilitation, and cancer rehabilitation, with preliminary evidence for traumatic brain injury and cerebrovascular events. Mind-body interventions are well-tolerated by patients and should be considered part of standard care in physical medicine and rehabilitation settings.
Die notwendige Effizienzsteigerung in modernen westlichen Gesundheitssystemen, sowohl im medizinisch-therapeutischen als auch im ökonomischen Bereich, erfordert ganzheitliche medizinische Konzepte, speziell auf dem Gebiet der Prävention und der Behandlung chronischer Erkrankungen. Die vedische Medizin in ihrer ursprünglichen Form als Teil der vedischen Wissenschaft beinhaltet das ganzheitliche theoretische und praktische Wissen über die grundlegenden Gesetzmäßigkeiten und Prozesse zur Aufrechterhaltung und Wiederherstellung von Gesundheit. So wie das Erbgut auf materieller Ebene den Speicher der Informationen über die Funktionsabläufe in den Zellen des Organismus darstellt, ist der Veda die Informationszentrale des gesamten Universums auf der transzendenten Ebene des Bewusstseins.
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Some individuals claim that they are very sensitive to pain, whereas others say that they tolerate pain well. Yet, it is difficult to determine whether such subjective reports reflect true interindividual experiential differences. Using psychophysical ratings to define pain sensitivity and functional magnetic resonance imaging to assess brain activity, we found that highly sensitive individuals exhibited more frequent and more robust pain-induced activation of the primary somatosensory cortex, anterior cingulate cortex, and prefrontal cortex than did insensitive individuals. By identifying objective neural correlates of subjective differences, these findings validate the utility of introspection and subjective reporting as a means of communicating a first-person experience.
Objective. - To provide physicians with a responsible assessment of the integration of behavioral and relaxation approaches into the treatment of chronic pain and insomnia. Participants. - A nonfederal, nonadvocate, 12- member panel representing the fields of family medicine, social medicine, psychiatry, psychology, public health, nursing, and epidemiology. In addition, 23 experts in behavioral medicine, pain medicine, sleep medicine, psychiatry, nursing, psychology, neurology, and behavioral and neurosciences presented data to the panel and a conference audience of 528 during a 1 1/4 - day public session. Questions and statements from conference attendees were considered during the open session. Closed deliberations by the panel occurred during the remainder of the second day and the morning of the third day. Evidence. - The literature was searched through MEDLINE, and an extensive bibliography of references was provided to the panel and the conference audience. Experts prepared abstracts with relevant citations from the literature. Scientific evidence was given precedence over clinical anecdotal experience. Assessment Process. - The panel, answering predefined questions, developed their conclusions based on the scientific evidence presented in open forum and the scientific literature. The panel composed a draft statement that was read in its entirety and circulated to the experts and the audience for comment. Thereafter, the panel resolved conflicting recommendations and released a revised statement at the end of the conference. The panel finalized the revisions within a few weeks after the conference. Conclusions. - A number of well-defined behavioral and relaxation interventions now exist and are effective in the treatment of chronic pain and insomnia. The panel found strong evidence for the use of relaxation techniques in reducing chronic pain in a variety of medical conditions as well as strong evidence for the use of hypnosis in alleviating pain associated with cancer. The evidence was moderate for the effectiveness of cognitive-behavioral techniques and biofeedback in relieving chronic pain. Regarding insomnia, behavioral techniques, particularly relaxation and biofeedback, produce improvements in some aspects of sleep, but it is questionable whether the magnitude of the improvement in sleep onset and total sleep time are clinically significant.
The scientific research on the Transcendental Meditation and TM-Sidhi program of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi is the largest and strongest body of research in the world on any program to develop human potential. The more than 500 scientific studies conduct- ed at 200 independent universities and institutions in 33 countries and published in over 100 leading scientific journals have documented that this technology benefits every sphere of life: physiological, psychological, sociological, and ecological. The findings in each area of study have been replicated many times, and meta-analyses, which are the most quantitatively rigorous means to review a body of research, have found a high degree of consistency of the results 1 . Studies using the most sophisticated, rigorous research methodologies that are designed to prove causality have strongly verified and extended preliminary findings. This demonstrates that Maharishi's Transcendental Meditation and TM-Sidhi program causes the wide range of benefits in mental poten- tial, health, and social behavior. Research conducted around the world documents that the program is effective for all cultural and ethnic groups. All age groups benefit, from increased alertness in infants of meditating parents to increased health, happiness, and longevity in meditating elderly. People spanning the full range of socioeconomic levels and intellectual abilities benefit, again indicating the universality of Maharishi's program. This body of research is unique in the extent of its cross validation, which means that the findings are validated by many different types of physiological, psychological, and sociological measures. For example, the finding that Maharishi's Transcendental Meditation and TM-Sidhi program decreases stress is validated by physiological changes such as decreased cortisol (the major stress hormone), decreased muscle ten- sion, normalization of blood pressure, increased autonomic stability, and increased EEG coherence. At the same time, a variety of psychological changes also indicates decreased stress, including decreased anxiety and depression, decreased post-traumatic stress syndrome, and increased self-actualization. Likewise, stress reduction is demon- strated by the sociological changes, such as decreased hostility, increased family harmo- ny, and reduced criminal behavior in incarcerated felons. Moreover, research extends the concept of stress reduction to the ecological level. Studies have found that the
Despite the high cost of occupational stress, few studies have empirically documented effective methods for alleviating stress and promoting employee development. This three-month prospective study evaluated the effects of the Transcendental meditation (TM) technique on stress reduction, health and employee development in two settings in the automotive industry: a large manufacturing plant of a Fortune 100 corporation, and a small distribution sales company. Employees who learned TM were compared to controls similar in worksite, job position, demographic, and pretest characteristics. Regular meditators improved significantly more than controls (with irregular meditators scoring in between) on multiple measures of stress and employee development, including: reduced physiological arousal (measured by skin conductance levels) during and outside TM practice; decreased trait anxiety, job tension, insomnia and fatigue, cigarette and hard liquor use; improved general health (and fewer health complaints); and enhanced employee effectiveness, job satisfaction, and work/personal relationships. Principal components analysis identified three factors underlying this wide range of improvements through TM: “occupational coherence,” “physiological settledness,” and “job and life satisfaction.” The “effect size” of TM in reducing skin conductance, trait anxiety, alcohol/cigarette use, and in enhancing personal development (relative to the control condition) in these business settings was substantially larger than for other forms of meditation and relaxation reported in four previous statistical meta-analyses.
Investigated points raised by D. S. Holmes (see record 1984-25288-001) and E. M. Morrell (see record 1986-26552-001) on the effect of meditation on reduction of somatic arousal, reviewing 31 studies. Results show that there is reduced somatic arousal during the transcendental meditation technique in comparison with rest, yet other physiological changes indicative of increased alertness are also present. This difference may be assessed by looking at the adaptive efficiency of physiological processes rather than reduction of somatic arousal during stress. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
The aim of the present study was to examine whether the neural structures subserving meditation can be reproducibly measured, and, if so, whether they are different from those supporting the resting state of normal consciousness. Cerebral blood flow distribution was investigated with the 15O-H2O PET technique in nine young adults, who were highly experienced yoga teachers, during the relaxation meditation (Yoga Nidra), and during the resting state of normal consciousness. In addition, global CBF was measured in two of the subjects. Spectral EEG analysis was performed throughout the investigations. In meditation, differential activity was seen, with the noticeable exception of V1, in the posterior sensory and associative cortices known to participate in imagery tasks. In the resting state of normal consciousness (compared with meditation as a baseline), differential activity was found in dorso-lateral and orbital frontal cortex, anterior cingulate gyri, left temporal gyri, left inferior parietal lobule, striatal and thalamic regions, pons and cerebellar vermis and hemispheres, structures thought to support an executive attentional network. The mean global flow remained unchanged for both subjects throughout the investigation (39 ± 5 and 38 ± 4 ml/100 g/min, uncorrected for partial volume effects). It is concluded that the H215O PET method may measure CBF distribution in the meditative state as well as during the resting state of normal consciousness, and that characteristic patterns of neural activity support each state. These findings enhance our understanding of the neural basis of different aspects of consciousness. Hum. Brain Mapping 7:98–105, 1999. © 1999 Wiley-Liss, Inc.
This study measured changes in regional cerebral blood flow (rCBF) during the complex cognitive task of meditation using single photon emission computed tomography. Eight experienced Tibetan Buddhist meditators were injected at baseline with 7 mCi HMPAO and scanned 20 min later for 45 min. The subjects then meditated for 1 h at which time they were injected with 25 mCi HMPAO and scanned 20 min later for 30 min. Values were obtained for regions of interest in major brain structures and normalized to whole brain activity. The percentage change between meditation and baseline was compared. Correlations between structures were also determined. Significantly increased rCBF (P<0.05) was observed in the cingulate gyrus, inferior and orbital frontal cortex, dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC), and thalamus. The change in rCBF in the left DLPFC correlated negatively (P<0.05) with that in the left superior parietal lobe. Increased frontal rCBF may reflect focused concentration and thalamic increases overall increased cortical activity during meditation. The correlation between the DLPFC and the superior parietal lobe may reflect an altered sense of space experienced during meditation. These results suggest a complex rCBF pattern during the task of meditation.
The cingulate gyrus is a major part of the "anatomical limbic system" and, according to classic accounts, is involved in emotion. This view is oversimplified in light of recent clinical and experimental findings that cingulate cortex participates not only in emotion but also in sensory, motor, and cognitive processes. Anterior cingulate cortex, consisting of areas 25 and 24, has been implicated in visceromotor, skeletomotor, and endocrine outflow. These processes include responses to painful stimuli, maternal behavior, vocalization, and attention to action. Since all of these activities have an affective component, it is likely that connections with the amygdala are critical for them. In contrast, posterior cingulate cortex, consisting of areas 29, 30, 23, and 31, contains neurons that monitor eye movements and respond to sensory stimuli. Ablation studies suggest that this region is involved in spatial orientation and memory. It is likely that connections between posterior cingulate and parahippocampal cortices contribute to these processes. We conclude that there is a fundamental dichotomy between the functions of anterior and posterior cingulate cortices. The anterior cortex subserves primarily executive functions related to the emotional control of visceral, skeletal, and endocrine outflow. The posterior cortex subserves evaluative functions such as monitoring sensory events and the organism's own behavior in the service of spatial orientation and memory.