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Hum Brain Mapp. 2009 Jan;30(1):38-46.

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

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, Massachusetts General Hospital, Charlestown, Massachusetts, USA. kongj@nmr.mgh.harvard.edu

Abstract

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.

(c) 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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