Friday, March 07, 2008

Neuroscience: Chronic pain reduced by meditation, not medication

An interesting item from the news, offers hope for chronic pain sufferers through meditation:

The study, Published in the Journal of Neuroscience on February 6, indicates that in a “healthy” brain, there is a state of equilibrium between the different regions in the brain, with regions quieting down when others are active. However, for those in chronic pain, a front region of the cortex mostly associated with emotion “never shuts up,” according to Chialvo, the lead author of the study.

"The areas that are affected fail to deactivate when they should," Chialvo said. The fifteen people with chronic back pain in the study had permanent activity in the front cortex of the brain, rather than the equilibrium associated with “the resting state network of the brain,” he said.

Sounds pretty grim. But columnist Jackie Gingrich Cushman reports
There might be a simple way to combat this constant state of on – turning off the mind. Though this may seem simple to accomplish, it is not. The good news is that, according to “Train your Mind, Change your Brain,” by Sharon Begley, (Ballantine Books, 2007) our brains have the ability to not only grow based on mental training (i.e., thinking) but we can alter how our brains work and connect based on mental training through meditation. This means that we can train our brains and thereby affect our emotions.

That’s good news, because long term use of drugs can be debilitating as well as expensive. It’s better to use them in a strategic way, and make use of mental resources wherever possible.

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