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Effects of electroacupuncture versus manual acupuncture on the human brain as measured by fMRI

Authors

  • Vitaly Napadow,

    1. Athinoula A. Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging, Department of Radiology, Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Charlestown, Massachusetts
    2. Department of Radiology, Logan College of Chiropractic, Chesterfield, Missouri
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  • Nikos Makris,

    1. Department of Neurology, Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Charlestown, Massachusetts
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  • Jing Liu,

    1. Athinoula A. Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging, Department of Radiology, Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Charlestown, Massachusetts
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  • Norman W. Kettner,

    1. Department of Radiology, Logan College of Chiropractic, Chesterfield, Missouri
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  • Kenneth K. Kwong,

    1. Athinoula A. Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging, Department of Radiology, Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Charlestown, Massachusetts
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  • Kathleen K.S. Hui

    Corresponding author
    1. Athinoula A. Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging, Department of Radiology, Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Charlestown, Massachusetts
    • Athinoula A. Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging, Department of Radiology, Massachusetts General Hospital, 149 13th Street, Rm. 2301, Charlestown, MA 02129
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Abstract

The goal of this functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study was to compare the central effects of electroacupuncture at different frequencies with traditional Chinese manual acupuncture. Although not as time-tested as manual acupuncture, electroacupuncture does have the advantage of setting stimulation frequency and intensity objectively and quantifiably. Manual acupuncture, electroacupuncture at 2 Hz and 100 Hz, and tactile control stimulation were carried out at acupoint ST-36. Overall, electroacupuncture (particularly at low frequency) produced more widespread fMRI signal increase than manual acupuncture did, and all acupuncture stimulations produced more widespread responses than did our placebo-like tactile control stimulation. Acupuncture produced hemodynamic signal increase in the anterior insula, and decrease in limbic and paralimbic structures including the amygdala, anterior hippocampus, and the cortices of the subgenual and retrosplenial cingulate, ventromedial prefrontal cortex, frontal, and temporal poles, results not seen for tactile control stimulation. Only electroacupuncture produced significant signal increase in the anterior middle cingulate cortex, whereas 2-Hz electroacupuncture produced signal increase in the pontine raphe area. All forms of stimulation (acupuncture and control) produced signal increase in SII. These findings support a hypothesis that the limbic system is central to acupuncture effect regardless of specific acupuncture modality, although some differences do exist in the underlying neurobiologic mechanisms for these modalities, and may aid in optimizing their future usage in clinical applications. Hum. Brain Mapping 24:193–205, 2005. © 2004 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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