Researcher ORCID Identifier
Campus Only Senior Thesis
Bachelor of Arts
2021 Margot L Mafra Spencer
Mindfulness plays a significant role in practicing Buddhism, in which the ultimate goal in life is to achieve nirvana or a transcendent state where there is neither suffering, desire, nor sense of self (“nirvana,” n.d.). An essential step to reaching nirvana in Buddhism is achieving uppekha or serenity beyond any possible disturbance (Harrison p. 186). This thesis will explore if there is evidence that uppekha is achievable and examine the neuropsychological impacts of mindfulness on pain perception of an acute pain stimulus. Two groups of 20 adults in southern Vietnam will be exposed to a CO2 laser stimulus to simulate a non-invasive pin-prick under two conditions, (a) not mindful and (b) mindful to test the hypotheses: (1) When presented with a painful stimulus, expert meditator status (vs. novice meditators) will predict less reactivity (facial action, pain regions, subjective experience), (2) When presented with a painful stimulus, a state of mindfulness (vs. none) will predict less reactivity (facial action, pain regions, subjective experience), and (3) participants with expert meditator status will have a higher threshold for pain than novice meditators. While recording their facial action, coded with Facial Action Coding System (FACS; Ekman & Friesen 1978), the hemodynamic response of their thalamus, insula, secondary somatosensory cortex, amygdala, and the anterior cingulate cortex with blood oxygen level-dependent (BOLD) functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) will be recording the hemodynamic response of the pain regions in the brain. A Visual Analog Scale (VAS) will record subjective emotional reactions to the stimulus after each condition. This study will add to the literature by examining the relationship between mindfulness experience and the severity of the objective and perceived emotional and neurological reactivity to pain and how a brief mindfulness intervention can impact the objective and perceived emotional and neurological reactions to pain.
Mafra Spencer, Margot, "IS NIRVANA NEUROPSYCHOLOGICALLY POSSIBLE? EXPLORING THE EFFECTS OF MINDFULNESS ON PAIN PERCEPTION USING FMRI AND FACS" (2022). Scripps Senior Theses. 1951.
This thesis is restricted to the Claremont Colleges current faculty, students, and staff.