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Papers: 20 Jan 2024 - 26 Jan 2024

2024 Jan 18

J Pain


Effects of Savoring Meditation on Positive Emotions and Pain-Related Brain Function: A Mechanistic Randomized Controlled Trial in People With Rheumatoid Arthritis.


Finan PH, Hunt C, Keaser ML, Smith K, Lerman S, Bingham CO, Barrett F, Garland EL, Zeidan F, Seminowicz DA


Positive emotions are a promising target for intervention in chronic pain, but mixed findings across trials to date suggest that existing interventions may not be optimized to efficiently engage the target. The aim of the current pilot mechanistic randomized controlled trial was to test the effects of a positive emotion-enhancing intervention called Savoring Meditation on pain-related neural and behavioral targets in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Participants included 44 patients with a physician-confirmed diagnosis of RA (n=29 included in fMRI analyses), who were randomized to either Savoring Meditation or a Slow Breathing control. Both meditation interventions were brief (four 20-minute sessions). Self-report measures were collected pre- and post-intervention. An fMRI task was conducted at post-intervention, during which participants practiced the meditation technique on which they had been trained while exposed to non-painful and painful thermal stimuli. Savoring significantly reduced experimental pain intensity ratings relative to rest (p<.001). Savoring also increased cerebral blood flow in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) and increased connectivity between the vmPFC and caudate during noxious thermal stimulation relative to Slow Breathing (z=2.3 voxelwise, FDR cluster corrected p=0.05). Participants in the Savoring condition also reported significantly increased positive emotions (ps<.05) and reduced anhedonic symptoms (p<.01) from pre- to post-intervention. These findings suggest that Savoring recruits reward-enhancing corticostriatal circuits in the face of pain, and future work should extend these findings to evaluate if these mechanisms of Savoring are associated with improved clinical pain outcomes in diverse patient populations. PERSPECTIVE: Savoring Meditation is a novel positive emotion-enhancing intervention designed for patients with chronic pain. The present findings provide preliminary evidence that Savoring Meditation is acutely analgesic, and engages neural and subjective emotional targets that are relevant to pain self-management. Future work should evaluate the clinical translation of these findings.