Is Mindfulness Associated With Lower Pain Reactivity and Connectivity of the Default Mode Network? A Replication and Extension Study in Healthy and Episodic Migraine Participants

Published:August 04, 2022DOI:


      • Mindfulness does not relate to experimental pain in healthy adults.
      • Mindfulness does not relate to headache characteristics in migraine patients.
      • Mindfulness does not associate with default mode network (DMN) connectivity in healthy adults.
      • Mindfulness does not associate with DMN connectivity in migraine.
      • Non-judging of experience may relate to pain, catastrophizing and DMN connectivity in migraine.


      Formal training in mindfulness-based practices promotes reduced experimental and clinical pain, which may be driven by reduced emotional pain reactivity and undergirded by alterations in the default mode network, implicated in mind-wandering and self-referential processing. Recent results published in this journal suggest that mindfulness, defined here as the day-to-day tendency to maintain a non-reactive mental state in the absence of training, associates with lower pain reactivity, greater heat-pain thresholds, and resting-state default mode network functional connectivity in healthy adults in a similar manner to trained mindfulness. The extent to which these findings extend to chronic pain samples and replicate in healthy samples is unknown. Using data from healthy adults (n = 36) and episodic migraine patients (n = 98) and replicating previously published methods, we observed no significant association between mindfulness and heat-pain threshold, pain intensity or unpleasantness, or pain catastrophizing in healthy controls, or between mindfulness and headache frequency, severity, impactor pain catastrophizing in patients. There was no association between default mode network connectivity and mindfulness in either sample when probed via seed-based functional connectivity analyses. In post-hoc whole brain exploratory analyses, a meta-analytically derived default mode network node (ie, posterior cingulate cortex) showed connectivity with regions unassociated with pain processing as a function of mindfulness, such that healthy adults higher in mindfulness showed greater functional connectivity between the posterior cingulate cortex-and cerebellum. Collectively, these findings suggest that the relationship between mindfulness and default mode network functional connectivity may be nuanced or non-robust, and encourage further investigation of how mindfulness relates to pain.


      This study found few significant associations between dispositional mindfulness and pain, pain reactivity and default mode connectivity in healthy adults and migraine patients. The relationship between mindfulness and default mode network connectivity may be nuanced or non-robust.

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