AND ABSTRACT (PI: O?Connell, Katherine; 1F31AT010423-01A1) Millions of Americans suffer from difficulties managing pain. While the origin of pain can vary, a better understanding of the protective and preventative factors of pain may help alleviate its burden on society. Large and supportive social environments have recently emerged as potential protective factors. In particular, social support?which indexes the extent of emotional and tangible assistance provided by friends, family and others in an individual?s social network?has been directly associated with increased pain tolerance and reduced opioid use after surgery, suggesting social support?s beneficial effect on reducing acute pain experience. Importantly, social support exhibits the capacity to be enhanced through some forms of meditation; however, it remains unclear whether such an enhancement may correspond to altered pain experience. This project aims to assess the impact of a Loving-Kindness Meditation (LKM) training on acute pain experience in healthy adults. LKM orients individuals to engage feelings of kindness and compassion for others, which has been shown to increase feelings of connectedness with others. Subjects will be randomized to either an 8-week online LKM training or a wait-list control condition through a pre-existing parent study (NCT03894930). By incorporating additional data collection to the parent study, this project tests two aims.
The first aim will examine the impact of LKM on perceived social environment and engagement in adaptive social behavior.
The second aim will investigate whether LKM can reduce acute pain experience by testing for increased pain tolerance and reduced psychophysiological reactivity to pain.
The second aim will also examine how changes to social functioning may be associated with changes to acute pain experience after LKM, which will improve our understanding of how LKM may work. Results will advance our basic understanding of LKM and could help delineate an innovative path to preventative acute pain management. Through this project, I will obtain training essential for my career goals including to gain experience in a randomized-controlled trial and to quantitatively measure acute pain experience.

Public Health Relevance

While pain has a wide array of causes and contributing factors, understanding the factors that protectively buffer against pain may help alleviate its burden on society. For example, positive social environments have previously been linked to increased pain tolerance and reduced opioid use. This research will examine whether engaging in a socially-oriented meditation training can reduce acute pain experience in healthy adults.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Center for Complementary & Alternative Medicine (NCCAM)
Predoctoral Individual National Research Service Award (F31)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZAT1)
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White, Della
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Georgetown University
Schools of Arts and Sciences
United States
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