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Auton Neurosci. 2008 Feb 29;138(1-2):50-6.

Investigation of specificity of auricular acupuncture points in regulation of autonomic function in anesthetized rats.

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  • 1School of Chinese Medicine, Hong Kong Baptist University, 7 Baptist University Road, Kowloon Tong, Kowloon, Hong Kong, China.


Auricular acupuncture has been used for various autonomic disorders in clinical practice. It has been theorized that different auricular areas have distinct influence on autonomic functions. The present study aims to examine the effects of acupuncture stimulation at different auricular areas on cardiovascular and gastric responses. In male Sprague-Dawley rats anesthetized with pentobarbital sodium, five auricular areas, which were located at the apex of the helix (A(1)), the middle of the helix (A(2)), the tail of the helix (A(3)), the inferior concha (A(4)) and the middle of the antihelix (A(5)), had been selected for stimulation with manual acupuncture (MA) and different parameters of electroacupuncture (EA). A mild depressor response (6%-12% decrease from baseline) was evoked from A(1), A(3) and A(4) by MA and from all five areas by EA (100 Hz-1 mA). The biggest depressor response (-18.4+/-3.1 mmHg, p<0.001) was evoked from A(4). A small bradycardia was evoked by MA from A(4) and by EA at A(3), A(4) and A(5.) Increase in intragastric pressure (8-14 mmH(2)O) was evoked by MA from A(1), A(3) and A(4) and by EA at A(2.) These results show that similar patterns of cardiovascular and gastric responses could be evoked by stimulation of different areas of the auricle. The present results do not support the theory of a highly specific functional map in the ear. Rather, there is a similar pattern of autonomic changes in response to auricular acupuncture, with variable intensity depending on the area of stimulation.

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