Mindfulness-based stress reduction alters brain activity for breast cancer survivors with chronic neuropathic pain: preliminary evidence from resting-state fMRI

Author: A M Smith1, A Leeming2, Z Fang2, T Hatchard3, O Mioduszewski2, M A Schneider3, A Ferdossifard3, Y Shergill4, E-L Khoo4, P Poulin5
1 School of Psychology, University of Ottawa, 136 Jean-Jacques Lussier Room 2079, Ottawa, Ontario, K1N 6N5, Canada. asmith@uottawa.ca.
2 School of Psychology, University of Ottawa, 136 Jean-Jacques Lussier Room 2079, Ottawa, Ontario, K1N 6N5, Canada.
3 Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences, McMaster University, Hamilton, Canada.
4 The Ottawa Health Research Institute, Ottawa, Canada.
5 Department of Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Canada.
Conference/Journal: J Cancer Surviv
Date published: 2020 Sep 30
Other: Special Notes: doi: 10.1007/s11764-020-00945-0. , Word Count: 212

Breast cancer continues to be the most commonly diagnosed cancer among Canadian women, with as many as 25-60% of women suffering from chronic neuropathic pain (CNP) as a pervasive consequence of treatment. While pharmacological interventions have shown limited efficacy for the management of CNP to date, psychological interventions, such as mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR), may be a promising alterative for improving pain-related problems. The purpose of this study was to use brain imaging methods to investigate this potential.

Resting-state fMRI was used in female breast cancer survivors with CNP before and after an 8-week MBSR course (n = 13) and compared with a waitlist control group (n = 10).

Focusing on the default mode network, the most significant results show greater posterior cingulate connectivity with medial prefrontal regions post-MBSR intervention. Moreover, this change in connectivity correlated with reduced pain severity for the MBSR group.

These results provide empirical evidence of a change in the brain following MBSR intervention associated with changes in the subjective experience of pain.

Implications for cancer survivors:
This study gives hope for a non-invasive method of easing the struggle of CNP in women following breast cancer treatment.

Keywords: Breast cancer; Chronic neuropathic pain; Default mode network; Mindfulness-based stress reduction; Oncology; Resting-state fMRI.

PMID: 33000446 DOI: 10.1007/s11764-020-00945-0