In an address given last week at the annual meeting of the American Pain Society, M. Catherine Bushnell, PhD, an official at the National Institutes of Health, presented new evidence that yoga can be an important tool for preventing or reversing the effects of chronic pain on the brain. Imaging studies in both rats and humans have shown that reductions in gray matter volume and white matter integrity are associated with chronic pain. Dr. Bushnell stated that studies conducted at the NIH demonstrate that mind-body techniques including yoga and meditation can counter these anatomical effects in the brain.
The studies show yoga practitioners have more gray matter than controls in multiple brain regions, including those involved in pain modulation. Bushnell said gray matter changes in the insula or internal structures of the cerebral cortex are most significant for pain tolerance. The findings offer further affirmation that mind-body practice appears to exert a protective effect on brain gray matter that counteracts the neuroanatomical effects of chronic pain.
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Posted on May 18, 2015