http://www.cnn.com/2011/HEALTH/04/05/me ... index.html
In the study, researchers mildly burned 15 men and women in a lab on two separate occasions, before and after the volunteers attended four 20-minute meditation training sessions over the course of four days. During the second go-round, when the participants were instructed to meditate, they rated the exact same pain stimulus -- a 120-degree heat on their calves -- as being 57 percent less unpleasant and 40 percent less intense, on average.
A question I have about this study is, was there a control group with the same process but no meditation? Without one you can't prove meditation was the cause. Maybe the second time they reacted differently because they knew what to expect, or some other factor.
Anyway, I think the part I highlight in red below is interesting:
The conventional wisdom has been that meditation relieves pain not by diminishing sensation but by helping people consciously control their perception of pain, says Katharine MacLean, Ph.D., a meditation researcher and postdoctoral fellow in psychology at Johns Hopkins University, in Baltimore.
However, she says, the brain scans make it clear that both processes take place: Mediation changes the nature of pain before it's perceived and also allows people to better handle it. "Meditation is really kind of retuning your brain," MacLean says.