Table_1_Effects of Brief Mindfulness Interventions on the Interference Induced by Experimental Heat Pain on Cognition in Healthy Individuals.DOCX (110.22 kB)
Download file

Table_1_Effects of Brief Mindfulness Interventions on the Interference Induced by Experimental Heat Pain on Cognition in Healthy Individuals.DOCX

Download (110.22 kB)
posted on 2021-06-02, 04:13 authored by Louis-Nascan Gill, Vanessa Tabry, Véronique Taylor, Maxime Lussier, Kristina Martinu, Louis Bherer, Mathieu Roy, Pierre Rainville

Background: Pain captures attention and interferes with competing tasks demanding cognitive effort. Brief mindfulness interventions involving both conceptual learning and meditation exercises have been shown to improve attention and reduce pain sensitivity, and could potentially reduce pain interference. This study assesses the effect of a 5-day mindfulness intervention (20 min/day) on the interference produced by thermal pain on working memory performance using a 2-back task.

Methods: Healthy participants were randomized into three groups exposed to mindfulness meditation training (n = 15), an active educational control intervention comprising only conceptual information on mindfulness (n = 15), or no intervention (n = 15). The two active interventions were administered in a dual-blind fashion and outcomes were assessed by research personnel blind to this allocation. Evaluation sessions were conducted before and after the interventions to assess the effect of pain on 2-back performance (pain interference). Importantly, both pain stimuli and the 2-back task were calibrated individually and in each session before assessing pain interference, thereby controlling for possible changes in baseline pain sensitivity and cognitive performance. Secondary outcomes included heat pain sensitivity, cold pain tolerance, cognitive inhibition, cognitive flexibility, and divided attention.

Results: Manipulation checks confirmed that heat pain interferes with the performance of the working-memory task. Compared to the no-intervention control group, pain interference was significantly reduced following the conceptual intervention but not the meditation intervention, although a corollary analysis suggests the effect might be due to regression toward the mean caused by baseline imbalance in pain interference. Secondary outcomes also suggested an increase in pain tolerance in the conceptual learning group only.

Discussion: A short mindfulness meditation intervention was insufficient to reduce pain interference but conceptual learning about mindfulness produced some unexpected benefits. Although the generalization of experimental findings to clinical pain conditions may be premature, these results highlight the importance of distinguishing the contribution of mindfulness education and meditation training in future studies. Understanding the effects of mindfulness training on pain regulation and management must take into consideration the multiple factors underlying this complex intervention.