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Pain is an aspect of life that most people will experience at one point or another. Experiencing pain, or living with chronic pain, can considerably change someone’s experience of life. Neuroscience based pain research studies the pathways that allow us to perceive pain and the brain regions that are responsible for processing that information. It is through scientific research that one is able to study the physiological aspects of pain and potentially provide an intervention. The main objective of this study was to determine whether or not meditation impacted pain awareness. This was tested by having participants partake in one of two tasks, meditation or listening to an audiobook, and later watching an MMA video. The quantitative results showed that there weren’t significant differences between the meditation and audiobook group for the dependent variable of “impact”. However, results found that there is a significant difference between the two groups for the dependent variable of “extent of impact”. Qualitative data was further explored in an attempt to explain the inconsistency in significance of dependent variables. Still, it is relevant to mention that it is through scientific research that one is able to study the physiological aspects of pain and potentially provide an intervention. In order to find ways to help those that live with pain it is important that we understand pain, holistically. However, I find neurophysiological understanding alone is not sufficient in addressing what pain is. Thus, this question is approached from both a neuroscientific and Philosophical perspective.

The Philosophy portion is divided into three chapters. The introductory chapter for philosophy is listed as chapter 4 in the combined thesis. The introductory chapter, “Phenomenology as Methodology and What Pain Is Not”, looks at the importance of non-quantitative methodology in pain research and what pain is not. It introduces phenomenology and why it should be the methodology used when conducting pain research. Additionally, I look at theories of pain in order to conclude what pain is not. The two conclusions being that pain is not a private mental object and that pain is not a merely neurophysiological experience.

The second chapter, “Meditation”, looks at multiple traditional stances on meditation. Seven meditation traditions from different cultural and religious backgrounds are discussed. I look at what meditation is and how it works, stressing the importance of the concepts of non-judgment, non-attachment, and “the observer” in meditation.

The third chapter, “How Mediation Relates to Pain”, aims to explore how the practice of meditation may impact one’s awareness of pain. I assess three frameworks to determine their explanation as to why meditation may impact one’s pain awareness. These three frameworks are the Neuroscientific conception, the Buddhist conception, and the Zen meditation conception as to why meditation impacts pain awareness. I will be concluding this thesis by putting together all that I have learned throughout the chapters by attempting to provide frameworks that are able to explain why meditation impact pain awareness. This independent study begins with a brief introduction that outlines the trajectory of the thesis.


Colvin, Michelle

Second Advisor

Thomson, Garrett


Neuroscience; Philosophy


Arts and Humanities | Neuroscience and Neurobiology | Philosophy

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



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