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Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2008 Jun;5(2):145-51. doi: 10.1093/ecam/nem051.

Acupuncture affects regional blood flow in various organs.

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  • 1Department of the Autonomic Nervous System, Tokyo Metropolitan Institute of Gerontology, Tokyo 173-0015, Japan.


In this review, our recent studies using anesthetized animals concerning the neural mechanisms of vasodilative effect of acupuncture-like stimulation in various organs are briefly summarized. Responses of cortical cerebral blood flow and uterine blood flow are characterized as non-segmental and segmental reflexes. Among acupuncture-like stimuli delivered to five different segmental areas of the body; afferent inputs to the brain stem (face) and to the spinal cord at the cervical (forepaw), thoracic (chest or abdomen), lumbar (hindpaw) and sacral (perineum) levels, cortical cerebral blood flow was increased by stimuli to face, forepaw and hindpaw. The afferent pathway of the responses is composed of somatic groups III and IV afferent nerves and whose efferent nerve pathway includes intrinsic cholinergic vasodilators originating in the basal forebrain. Uterine blood flow was increased by cutaneous stimulation of the hindpaw and perineal area, with perineal predominance. The afferent pathway of the response is composed of somatic group II, III and IV afferent nerves and the efferent nerve pathway includes the pelvic parasympathetic cholinergic vasodilator nerves. Furthermore, we briefly summarize vasodilative regulation of skeletal muscle blood flow via a calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) induced by antidromic activation of group IV somatic afferent nerves. These findings in healthy but anesthetized animals may be applicable to understanding the neural mechanisms improving blood flow in various organs following clinical acupuncture.


axon reflex; cerebral blood flow; muscle blood flow; somato-autonomic reflex; uterine blood flow

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