The present study aimed to investigate the impact of an 8-week mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) program on emotional reactivity among a sample of breast cancer survivors with chronic neuropathic pain (CNP).
Twenty-one women were randomly assigned to a MBSR treatment group (n = 11) or a waitlist control group (n = 10) following medical review. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), participants were imaged before and after the MBSR program while completing the emotional Stroop task as a measure of emotional reactivity.
The treatment group showed significantly less blood oxygen level–dependent (BOLD) activity post-MBSR across several brain regions involved in pain processing and visual attention. This included regions in the left somatosensory cortex, left precuneus, and left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. Although emotional reactivity was the primary outcome, pain severity and interference from the Brief Pain Inventory were also assessed at both time points. Pain interference was significantly reduced following MBSR for the intervention group only.
These preliminary findings show that MBSR training has a marked impact on neural correlates of pain processing and attention, lending support to MBSR as a viable adjunctive treatment option for breast cancer survivors living with CNP. However, further research, with a larger sample size, is warranted.