> What Zen meditators don't think about won't hurt them
> December 8th, 2010 in Medicine & Health / Psychology & Psychiatry 
> Zen meditation has many health benefits, including a reduced sensitivity to 
> pain. According to new research from the Universite de Montreal, meditators 
> do feel pain but they simply don't dwell on it as much. These findings, 
> published in the month's issue of Pain, may have implications for chronic 
> pain sufferers, such as those with arthritis, back pain or cancer.
> "Our previous research found that Zen meditators have lower pain sensitivity. 
> The aim of the current study was to determine how they are achieving this," 
> says senior author Pierre Rainville, researcher at the Université de Montréal 
> and the Institut universitaire de gériatrie de Montréal. "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. We think 
> that they feel the sensations, but cut the process short, refraining from 
> interpretation or labelling of the stimuli as painful."
> Training the brain
> 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 (the prefrontal cortex, 
> amygdala and hippocampus). In addition, there was a decrease in the 
> communication between a part of the brain that senses the pain and the 
> prefrontal cortex.
> "Our findings lead to new insights into mind/brain function," says first 
> author, Joshua Grant, a doctoral student at the Université de Montréal. 
> "These results challenge current concepts of mental control, which is thought 
> to be achieved by increasing cognitive activity or effort. Instead, we 
> suggest it is possible to self-regulate in a more passive manner, by 'turning 
> off' certain areas of the brain, which in this case are normally involved in 
> processing pain."
> "The results suggest that Zen meditators may have a training-related ability 
> to disengage some higher-order brain processes, while still experiencing the 
> stimulus," says Rainville. "Such an ability could have widespread and 
> profound implications for pain and emotion regulation and cognitive control. 
> This behaviour is consistent with the mindset of Zen and with the notion of 
> mindfulness."
> More information: http://www.science … nal/03043959
> Provided by University of Montreal
> "What Zen meditators don't think about won't hurt them." December 8th, 2010. 
> http://www.physorg.com/news/2010-12-zen-meditators-dont-wont.html

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