Zeidan, F., et al. (2011). Brain mechanisms supporting the modulation of pain by mindfulness meditation. The Journal of Neuroscience, 31 (14), 5540-5548. Full text.
From the Abstract: The subjective experience of one’s environment is constructed by interactions among sensory, cognitive, and affective processes. For centuries, meditation has been thought to influence such processes by enabling a non-evaluative representation of sensory events.
To better understand how meditation influences the sensory experience, we used arterial spin labeling functional magnetic resonance imaging to assess the neural mechanisms by which mindfulness meditation influences pain in healthy human participants. After 4 days of mindfulness meditation training, meditating in the presence of noxious stimulation significantly reduced pain unpleasantness by 57% and pain intensity ratings by 40% when compared to rest.