Increased gray matter following mindfulness-based stress reduction in breast cancer survivors with chronic neuropathic pain: preliminary evidence using voxel-based morphometry
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PurposeTo investigate the impact of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) on gray matter volume (GMV) in female breast cancer survivors who suffer from chronic neuropathic pain (CNP).
MethodsVoxel-based morphometry (VBM) was used to explore differences in GMV in 13 MBSR trainees and 10 waitlisted controls, with MRI scans and self-report measures completed pre- and post-8 weeks of training.
ResultsCompared to controls, the MBSR group had greater GMV in the angular gyrus and middle frontal gyrus post-training. The MBSR group's right parahippocampal gyrus GMV increased from pre- to post-training, whereas the control group's left parahippocampal gyrus, precuneus, middle temporal gyrus, and right cuneus GMV decreased over the same time period. Pain interference was significantly reduced and mindfulness was significantly increased following MBSR for the intervention group only.
ConclusionsMBSR was associated with increased GMV in regions where GMV is known to (1) increase with mindfulness and reorientation of attention and (2) decrease with the experience of chronic neuropathic pain. By contrast, the control group's decreases in GMV may be due to the negative effects of CNP which potentially may be reduced with MBSR, though further research is needed.
Implications for cancer survivorsGiven the poor efficiency of pharmacotherapies in a high percentage of women with neuropathic pain following breast cancer treatment, adjunct methods are required. MBSR may affect the brain to help alter attention and perception of pain, thus playing a potentially important role in the path to wellness for breast cancer survivors.
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