Meditators can concentrate the hurt away

Volunteers felt less pain while practicing mindfulness

By Daniel Strain

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JUST BREATHEFor resting individuals, pulses of heat light up the primary somatosensory cortex, a region of the brain that maps ouches and owies to particular regions of the body. When the subjects focused on their breathing using a technique called mindfulness meditation, the brain region stayed quiet even during pain. Robert Coghill

If a tree falls on you in the forest while you’re meditating, does it still hurt?

Well, yes. But maybe not quite as much as it would if you weren’t meditating, researchers from North Carolina and Wisconsin report in the April 6 Journal of Neuroscience. Individuals who practiced mindfulness meditation, or samatha, during a pain experiment reported much less discomfort than they did in earlier, meditation-free sessions. Samatha, the team says, flipped switches on or off in diverse regions of the brain underlying attention, expectation and even the awareness of thoughts themselves.

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