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NCCIH Research Blog

Symposium To Explore "Sixth Sense," Meditation, and Pain

April 26, 2018

Wen G. Chen, Ph.D.

Wen Chen, Ph.D.

Branch Chief and Program Director

Basic and Mechanistic Research in Complementary and Integrative Health Branch

National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health

View biographical sketch

Have you ever thought about what our “sixth sense” is? Can we feel it and regulate it? Does it impact our health?

If you are curious about such questions and will be attending the International Congress of Integrative Medicine and Health (ICIMH), you’re in luck! NCCIH is sponsoring a symposium, “Interoception, Meditation, and Pain,” to present the science and clinical applications of what has been called the sixth sense, interoception; its regulation by meditation; and its implications for the treatment of pain. The symposium will take place on Wednesday, May 9, from 1:30 to 2:45 p.m.

Interoception represents the processes by which the brain senses, interprets, and integrates signals from within the body, providing a moment-by-moment mapping of the body’s internal landscape across conscious and unconscious levels. Meditative practices often employ techniques to heighten and enhance the interoceptive experience. In addition, mindfulness meditation has been shown to benefit pain relief in patients with chronic pain.

Recently, researchers have begun to examine the mechanisms underlying the interoceptive experience of meditative practices as well as these practices’ impact on nociceptive processing. This symposium will bring together key leaders in the fields of interoception, meditation, and pain to discuss cutting-edge findings in these fields and explore their potential connections:

  • Dr. Cynthia Price, Research Associate Professor at the University of Washington School of Nursing and a member of the National Advisory Council for Complementary and Integrative Health, will present on recent advances in the relationships among interoception, meditation, and emotional regulation in clinical care.
  • Dr. Sahib S. Khalsa, Director of Clinical Studies at the Laureate Institute for Brain Research, will discuss studies in people of the neural mechanisms of interoception.
  • Dr. Stephen Liberles, Professor of Cell Biology at Harvard Medical School, who has studied the molecular and neural circuitry mechanisms underlying interoception in animal models, will present his current theory and research.
  • Dr. Jennifer Labus, Associate Professor at the University of California, Los Angeles School of Medicine, will discuss recent findings related to the interoceptive processes engaged by meditation to reduce pain in patients with irritable bowel syndrome.

We will conclude with an audience question-and-answer period with discussion, which I will moderate. I hope you can join us to learn more about our fascinating sixth sense. If you have any questions about this symposium, please feel free to e-mail me at chenw@mail.nih.gov.

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