Article

Acupuncture, the limbic system, and the anticorrelated networks of the brain. Auton Neurosci

Athinoula A. Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging, Department of Radiology, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Charlestown, Massachusetts, USA.
Autonomic neuroscience: basic & clinical (Impact Factor: 1.56). 10/2010; 157(1-2):81-90. DOI: 10.1016/j.autneu.2010.03.022
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT

The study of the mechanism of acupuncture action was revolutionized by the use of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Over the past decade, our fMRI studies of healthy subjects have contributed substantially to elucidating the central effect of acupuncture on the human brain. These studies have shown that acupuncture stimulation, when associated with sensations comprising deqi, evokes deactivation of a limbic-paralimbic-neocortical network, which encompasses the limbic system, as well as activation of somatosensory brain regions. These networks closely match the default mode network and the anti-correlated task-positive network described in the literature. We have also shown that the effect of acupuncture on the brain is integrated at multiple levels, down to the brainstem and cerebellum. Our studies support the hypothesis that the effect of acupuncture on the brain goes beyond the effect of attention on the default mode network or the somatosensory stimulation of acupuncture needling. The amygdala and hypothalamus, in particular, show decreased activation during acupuncture stimulation that is not commonly associated with default mode network activity. At the same time, our research shows that acupuncture stimulation needs to be done carefully, limiting stimulation when the resulting sensations are very strong or when sharp pain is elicited. When acupuncture induced sharp pain, our studies show that the deactivation was attenuated or reversed in direction. Our results suggest that acupuncture mobilizes the functionally anti-correlated networks of the brain to mediate its actions, and that the effect is dependent on the psychophysical response. In this work we also discuss multiple avenues of future research, including the role of neurotransmitters, the effect of different acupuncture techniques, and the potential clinical application of our research findings to disease states including chronic pain, major depression, schizophrenia, autism, and Alzheimer's disease.

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    • "In a 31-min EA block-designed fMRI study, the results of the first-and last-3 blocks were different (Napadow et al., 2009). More recently, we found that the cerebral blood flow (CBF) decreased globally and in some areas, including the limbic region as well as in the somatosensory brain regions following a 30-min 2-Hz TEAS; this finding is different from the somatosensoryactivation results in most short-period acupuncture research (Wu et al., 2002; Zhang et al., 2003a,b; Bai et al., 2009; Hui et al., 2010). These studies implied that the brain activities in response to short-and long-period acupuncture might be different. "

    Full-text · Dataset · Dec 2014
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    • "In a 31-min EA block-designed fMRI study, the results of the first-and last-3 blocks were different (Napadow et al., 2009). More recently, we found that the cerebral blood flow (CBF) decreased globally and in some areas, including the limbic region as well as in the somatosensory brain regions following a 30-min 2-Hz TEAS; this finding is different from the somatosensoryactivation results in most short-period acupuncture research (Wu et al., 2002; Zhang et al., 2003a,b; Bai et al., 2009; Hui et al., 2010). These studies implied that the brain activities in response to short-and long-period acupuncture might be different. "

    Full-text · Dataset · Dec 2014
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    • "Although it is generally agreed that the brain and nervous system play a leading role in processing acupuncture stimuli [4], [5], the specific mechanism underlying the therapeutic effects of acupuncture is still under debate. Some researchers [5]–[10] proposed that the deactivation of the limbic-paralimbic-neocortical system was crucial to producing acupuncture’s therapeutic effects while some others [11] argued that these deactivations did not occur reliably and suggested that brain responses to acupuncture were activation-dominated. "
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    ABSTRACT: Most previous studies of brain responses to acupuncture were designed to investigate the acupuncture instant effect while the cumulative effect that should be more important in clinical practice has seldom been discussed. In this study, the neural basis of the acupuncture cumulative effect was analyzed. For this experiment, forty healthy volunteers were recruited, in which more than 40 minutes of repeated acupuncture stimulation was implemented at acupoint Zhusanli (ST36). Three runs of acupuncture fMRI datasets were acquired, with each run consisting of two blocks of acupuncture stimulation. Besides general linear model (GLM) analysis, the cumulative effects of acupuncture were analyzed with analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) to find the association between the brain response and the cumulative duration of acupuncture stimulation in each stimulation block. The experimental results showed that the brain response in the initial stage was the strongest although the brain response to acupuncture was time-variant. In particular, the brain areas that were activated in the first block and the brain areas that demonstrated cumulative effects in the course of repeated acupuncture stimulation overlapped in the pain-related areas, including the bilateral middle cingulate cortex, the bilateral paracentral lobule, the SII, and the right thalamus. Furthermore, the cumulative effects demonstrated bimodal characteristics, i.e. the brain response was positive at the beginning, and became negative at the end. It was suggested that the cumulative effect of repeated acupuncture stimulation was consistent with the characteristic of habituation effects. This finding may explain the neurophysiologic mechanism underlying acupuncture analgesia.
    Full-text · Article · May 2014 · PLoS ONE
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