Functional neuroanatomical investigation of vision-related acupuncture point specificity-A multisession fMRI study

Department of Psychiatry, Massachusetts General Hospital, Charlestown, Massachusetts, USA.
Human Brain Mapping (Impact Factor: 5.97). 01/2009; 30(1):38-46. DOI: 10.1002/hbm.20481
Source: PubMed


The concept that specific acupuncture points have salubrious effects on distant target organ systems is a salient feature of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). In this study, we used a multiple-session experiment to test whether electroacupuncture stimulation at two TCM vision-related acupoints, UB 60 and GB 37, located on the leg, could produce fMRI signal changes in the occipital regions of the brain, and the specificity of this effect when compared with stimulation at an adjacent non-acupoint (NAP). Six normal, acupuncture naive subjects completed the study. Each subject participated in six identical scanning sessions. Voxelwise group analysis showed that electroacupuncture stimulation at both vision-related acupoints and the NAP produced modest, comparable fMRI signal decreases in the occipital cortex, including the bilateral cuneus, calcarine fissure and surrounding areas, lingual gyrus, and lateral occipital gyrus. Further analysis of fMRI signal changes in occipital cortex showed no significant difference among the three points, UB 60, GB 37, and NAP. Our results thus do not support the view that acupuncture stimulation at vision-related acupoints induces specific fMRI blood oxygen level dependent (BOLD) signal changes in the occipital cortex. We speculate that cross modal inhibition, produced by needling-evoked somatosensory stimulation, may account for our finding of BOLD signal decreases in the occipital cortex. Given the complexity of acupuncture systems and brain activity, additional work is required to determine whether functional neuroanatomical correlates of acupoint specificity can be validated by means of brain imaging tools.

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    • "The traditional Chinese medical therapy, acupuncture, is used clinically as an alternative or supplementary treatment [1, 2]. A few studies have investigated the mechanism of action of acupuncture, with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) being an effective method to study the results of acupuncture [3–5]. The Taichong (LR3) acupoint has been used for the study of specificity of meridians and acupoints. "
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    ABSTRACT: Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) has been shown to detect the specificity of acupuncture points, as proved by numerous studies. In this study, resting-state fMRI was used to observe brain areas activated by acupuncture at the Taichong (LR3) acupoint. A total of 15 healthy subjects received brain resting-state fMRI before acupuncture and after sham and true acupuncture, respectively, at LR3. Image data processing was performed using Data Processing Assistant for Resting-State fMRI and REST software. The combination of amplitude of low-frequency fluctuation (ALFF) and regional homogeneity (ReHo) was used to analyze the changes in brain function during sham and true acupuncture. Acupuncture at LR3 can specifically activate or deactivate brain areas related to vision, movement, sensation, emotion, and analgesia. The specific alterations in the anterior cingulate gyrus, thalamus, and cerebellar posterior lobe have a crucial effect and provide a valuable reference. Sham acupuncture has a certain effect on psychological processes and does not affect brain areas related to function.
    Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine 05/2014; 2014(2):729091. DOI:10.1155/2014/729091 · 1.88 Impact Factor
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    • "A number of fMRI studies on healthy subjects including ours have consistently revealed that acupuncture with deqi induced extensive negative BOLD signal change (deactivation) of a limbic-paralimbic-neocortical network (LPNN) and positive BOLD signal change of somatosensory regions of the brain [9, 14–16, 19, 20]. Both commonality and specificity were observed in brain responses to acupuncture at different acupoints [16, 17, 21]. It was reported that the sensation of sharp pain and overall deqi were associated with separate patterns of brain activity [9, 14–16, 22]. "
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    ABSTRACT: Deqi response, a psychophysical response characterized by a spectrum of different needling sensations, is essential for Chinese acupuncture clinical efficacy. Previous neuroimaging research works have investigated the neural correlates of an overall deqi response by summating the scores of different needling sensations. However, the roles of individual sensations in brain activity and how they interact with each other remain to be clarified. In this study, we applied fMRI to investigate the neural correlates of individual components of deqi during acupuncture on the right LV3 (Taichong) acupoint. We selected a subset of deqi responses, namely, pressure, heaviness, fullness, numbness, and tingling. Using the individual components of deqi of different subjects as covariates in the analysis of percentage change of bold signal, pressure was found to be a striking sensation, contributing to most of negative activation of a limbic-paralimbic-neocortical network (LPNN). The similar or opposite neural activity in the heavily overlapping regions is found to be responding to different needling sensations, including bilateral LPNN, right orbitofrontal cortex, and bilateral posterior parietal cortex. These findings provide the neuroimaging evidence of how the individual needle sensations interact in the brain, showing that the modulatory effects of different needling sensations contribute to acupuncture modulations of LPNN network.
    Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine 08/2013; 2013:483105. DOI:10.1155/2013/483105 · 1.88 Impact Factor
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    • "However, conventional understandings empirically implanted the hypothesis that the human brain responds to acupuncture stimulations in a predictable and fixed hemodynamic patterns , which can be reliably predefined by the experimental model (Friston, 1996), and this pattern is consistent across anatomical structures. As a logical consequence, most previous studies solely compared the spatial patterns of cerebral responses in the occipital lobe, drawing divergent conclusions (Cho et al., 1998; Gareus et al., 2002; Kong et al., 2009; Li et al., 2003). As a matter of fact, lines of evidence from both human behavior and animal studies have indicated that a striking feature of the acupuncture effect is its longevity—a delayed onset, gradual peaking and gradual returning to baseline (Pomeranz and Chiu, 1976; Price et al., 1984), implying that the kinetics of acupuncture are longer acting as a function of time (Bai et al., 2009b). "
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    ABSTRACT: Functional acupoint specificity is one of the most debated topics in acupuncture neuroimaging research. Conventional studies investigating vision-related acupoint specificity empirically assume that acupuncture-induced hemodynamic response can be defined a priori and thus concentrate on distinguishing the spatial variations of response patterns across acupoints in the occipital lobe. However, evidence suggests that acupuncture-invoked BOLD signal changes are independent of a priori time shape. Additionally, temporal profiles reflect how a stimulus corresponds with the brain, implying the hemodynamic coherence induced by stimulation. Therefore, temporal information carried in acupuncture-related neural activity may be more crucial to specificity issues. This paper initiates the detection into tempo-spatial dimension and the goal of this study is to detect functional acupoint specificity by uniquely comparing the temporal activities of the occipital lobe among vision-related acupoints (VRA) and a non-acupoint (NAP). We utilized the independent component analysis (ICA) to extract temporal patterns of occipital response by stimulating a VRA, i.e. GB37, and a NAP. As an improvement over previous ones, another VRA, i.e. BL60 was employed to consolidate our findings. Results showed that although all groups showed V1 activity in the occipital lobe, dissociable temporal activities in this region categorized GB37 and NAP (r = 0.05, p = 0.64). This finding was replicable with regard to BL60 and NAP (r = − 0.03, p = 0.77). Intriguingly, stimulation at two VRAs induced highly correlated temporal activities (p < 0.0001). This study adds positive evidence to the issue of vision-related acupoint specificity. The utilization of ICA and consideration of temporal dynamics may shed light on future studies.
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