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Am J Chin Med. 2008;36(3):569-77.

Disinhibitory involvement of the anterior cingulate cortex in the descending antinociceptive effect induced by electroacupuncture stimulation in rats.

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Integrative Sensory Physiology, Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, Nagasaki University, Nagasaki 852-8588, Japan.


The present study was conducted to clarify the role of the anterior cingulate cortex (ACCX) in acupuncture analgesia. Experiments were performed on 35 female Wistar albino rats weighing about 300 g. Single unit recordings were made from ACCX neurons with a tungsten microelectrode. Descending ACCX neurons were identified by antidromic activation from electrical shocks applied to the ventral part of the ipsilateral PAG through a concentric needle electrode. Cathodal electroacupuncture stimulation of Ho-Ku (0.1 ms in duration, 45 Hz) for 15 min was done by inserting stainless steel needles bilaterally. An anodal silver-plate electrode (30 mm x 30 mm) was placed on the center of the abdomen. Naloxone (1.0 mg/kg, i.v.) was used to test whether changes of ACCX activities were induced by the endogenous opioid system. Data were collected from a total of 73 ACCX neurons. Forty-seven neurons had descending projection to the PAG, and the other 26 had no projections to the PAG. A majority of descending ACCX neurons were inhibited by electroacupuncture stimulation. By contrast, non-projection ACCX neurons were mainly unaffected by electroacupuncture. Naloxone did not reverse acupuncture effects on the changes of ACCX neuronal activities. Acupuncture stimulation had predominantly inhibitory effects on the activities of descending ACCX neurons. Since the functional connection between ACCX and PAG is inhibitory, electroacupuncture caused disinhibition of PAG neurons, whose activity is closely related to descending antinociception to the spinal cord. This disinhibitory effect elicited by acupuncture stimulation is thought to play a significant role in acupuncture analgesia.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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