Wiech, K., Farias, M., Kahane, G, Shakel, N. et al., (2008). An fMRI study measuring analgesia enhanced by religion as a belief system. Pain, 139, 467-476.

What do the authors mean by “top down” processes that can affect pain perception?

How might the pain experience be “reframed” in a positive way and what role does religion potential play in that process? What brain  area(s) seem(s) to be involved in this reframing process?

Describe the testing procedure used in this study? What question were the authors trying to address and how did they do that?

What are the important findings? What result(s) suggest(s) that religious reframing might have been occurring?

Why are the authors skeptical that motivational or distraction-based explanations for the results are equally possible compared to the reappraisal explanation?

What implications might these results have for human evolution in general and the Andes’ survivors in particular.  

Describe the four elements for which the participants were asked to give ratings. What were the findings for each?

Did the religious sample experience less pain than the non-religious sample? Explain.

Was the activation in the right VLPFC and pons/ventral midbrain due to preferential liking of one of the images? Explain.

What specific brain areas were activated during the pain-induction phase? Was it the same for both the religious and non-religious group?

Describe how the reappraisal process explains the findings in this article.

What were the three possible explanations given by the authors for their findings of pain reduction in the religious sample? Which one did they (and their findings) endorse?