Previous studies have shown that Zen meditation has many health benefits, including a reduced sensitivity to pain. Now researchers at the Universite de Montreal have discovered how meditators achieve this.
They found that meditators do feel pain but they simply don't dwell on it as much.
"Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, we demonstrated that although the meditators were aware of the pain, this sensation wasn't processed in the part of their brains responsible for appraisal, reasoning or memory formation," said senior author Pierre Rainville.
"We think that they feel the sensations, but cut the process short, refraining from interpretation or labelling of the stimuli as painful," Rainville said.
Rainville and his colleagues compared the response of 13 Zen meditators to 13 non-meditators to a painful heat stimulus.
Pain perception was measured and compared with functional MRI data. The most experienced Zen practitioners showed lower pain responses and decreased activity in the brain areas responsible for cognition, emotion and memory.
In addition, there was a decrease in the communication between a part of the brain that senses the pain and the prefrontal cortex.
These findings may have implications for chronic pain sufferers, such as those with arthritis, back pain or cancer.
The study was published in the month's issue of Pain. (ANI)