for people ages 18-65 (full criteria)
at La Jolla, California and other locations
study started
estimated completion
Fadel Zeidan



The aim of this study is to determine the neural mechanisms supporting the modulation of chronic low back pain by meditation. The primary hypothesis is that mindfulness will be associated with greater activation of the orbitofrontal and anterior cingulate cortices, and reduced activation of the thalamus.

Official Title

Brain Mechanisms Supporting Mindfulness-based Chronic Pain Relief


Chronic pain affects over 100 million Americans and costs the United States approximately $635 billion dollars a year. The widespread use of opioids to treat chronic pain has led to the so-called "opioid epidemic", a phenomenon marked by the exponential growth in opioid misuse and addiction. These staggering statistics highlight the importance of developing, testing and validating fast-acting, non-pharmacological approaches to treat pain. Mindfulness meditation has been found to significantly reduce pain in experimental and clinical settings. However, lack of mechanistic data and the assumption that extensive meditation training is required to experience analgesia has limited the clinical deployment of this cost-effective and narcotic-free treatment. The central aim of the proposed study is to determine the specific neural mechanisms that are engaged during mindfulness-based analgesia. This study will examine if longer bouts of meditation training will increase meditation-induced brain activation (orbitofrontal cortex; anterior cingulate cortex) during chronic low back pain evocation. The knowledge gained from this study will provide novel mechanistic insight to better develop and tailor cognitive therapeutic interventions to target multiple chronic pain conditions.


Chronic Low Back Pain Mindfulness fMRI Pain Low Back Radicular Back Pain Low Back Pain Mindfulness training Meditation training


You can join if…

Open to people ages 18-65


  • Participants must have a medical evaluation that shows the source of low-back pain is associated with at least one degenerated, torn or herniated lumbar disc with a minimum Grade III disc degeneration. Study physicians will confirm diagnosis.
  • Participants must be between the ages of 18-65 years.
  • Participants must rate their daily chronic pain intensity at a 3 or greater on 0-10 visual analog scale.
  • Participants must have experienced their radicular pain for at least 3 months duration.
  • Participants must not be participating in any new (within 2 weeks prior or anytime after enrollment) pain management procedures during the study period.
  • Participants must not have had back surgery within the last year before their enrollment into the study.
  • Participants must not have had any other sensory or motor deficits that precludes participation in this study.
  • Participants must be right-handed.
  • Participants must have no prior meditative experience

You CAN'T join if...

  • Participants must not have known anomalies of the central nervous system including: stroke, dementia, aneurysm, a personal history of psychosis.
  • Participants must not test positive for opiates before each MRI testing session.
  • Participants must not have metal implants including ferrous arterial stints or coils, spinal stimulators, pacemakers, or defibrillators, permanently implanted hearing aides, bullets, BBs, or pellets, retinal eye implants, infusion pump for insulin or other medicines, ferrous surgical clips, staples, metal sutures, orthopedic hardware above or including the shoulders, body piercings that cannot be removed.
  • Participants must not be claustrophobic.
  • Participants must not produce negative straight leg test (i.e. a test is considered positive when the person reports reproducible pain at 40 degrees of hip flexion or less).
  • Participants must not be pregnant


  • UC San Diego Center for Functional MRI not yet accepting patients
    La Jolla California 92093 United States
  • UC San Diego Center for Mindfulness not yet accepting patients
    San Diego California 92122 United States
  • Altman Clinical and Translational Research Institute not yet accepting patients
    La Jolla California 92093 United States

Lead Scientist

  • Fadel Zeidan
    Assistant Professor, Anesthesiology. Authored (or co-authored) 24 research publications


not yet accepting patients
Start Date
Completion Date
University of California, San Diego
Study Type
Last Updated