May 18, 2023
In this episode, Wendy speaks with neuroscientist and pain researcher Fadel Zeidan. Fadel is one of the leading experts on understanding how mindfulness and other contemplative practices can be used to help relieve physical pain and promote well-being. This conversation covers many topics, including:
- his interest in self, consciousness, mindfulness and the brain;
- bringing mindfulness to special education classrooms;
- historical use of mindfulness for pain;
- intensity vs. unpleasantness of pain;
- research showing that mindfulness induces pain relief;
- making mindfulness training more accessible;
- looking into the brain during pain;
- using “fake meditation” in research;
- our natural opiate system and its role in pain relief;
- the relationship of physical pain to more complex psychological pain;
- working with families of children who were killed by gun violence;
- studying psychedelics for phantom limb pain;
- role of the default mode network in pain and self;
- compassion meditation and increasing our connection to strangers;
- the opioid crisis in the United States;
- and the role of contemplation in larger society.
Fadel Zeidan is an associate professor in the Department of Anesthesiology at the University of California San Diego. Fadel’s research is focused on identifying if and how mind-body approaches like mindfulness meditation modify behavioral and neural mechanisms of pain and health. Recently, his team demonstrated that mindfulness meditation is mechanistically distinct from and more effective than placebo at reducing pain. He and his laboratory are also examining how natural products like cannabis and psychedelic mushrooms modulate the subjective experience of pain. Further, his team is currently conducting studies to identify how mental training can cultivate behavioral and neural mechanisms supporting compassion and empathy in patients, law enforcement officers, and community dwellers. Fadel was awarded the National Institutes of Health Mitchell Max Award for Research Excellence and is principle investigator on numerous NIH grants examining the effects of mental training on well-being. He also serves on the Mind & Life Institute Steering Council and is a five-time Varela Grant awardee.
- News: Mindfulness meditation reduces pain by separating it from the self. Science Daily, 2022.
- TEDx Talk: A Different Approach To Pain Management: Mindfulness Meditation
- Interview: Pain Relief Without Opioids? Mind & Life Blog, 2018.
- Interview: Mindfulness for Pain, CBS, 2019.
- Paper: Disentangling self from pain: mindfulness meditation-induced pain relief is driven by thalamic-default mode network decoupling. Pain, 2023.
- Paper: The neural mechanisms of mindfulness-based pain relief: a functional magnetic resonance imaging-based review and primer. Pain Reports, 2019.
- Paper: Mindfulness-meditation-based pain relief is not mediated by endogenous opioids. Journal of Neuroscience, 2016.
- Paper: Mindfulness Meditation Training Reduces Aggression and Improves Well‑Being in Highly Stressed Law Enforcement Officers. Journal of Police & Criminal Psychology, 2022.