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J Altern Complement Med. 2008 Sep;14(7):861-9. doi: 10.1089/acm.2008.SAR-3.

The status and future of acupuncture mechanism research.

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Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging, Massachusetts General Hospital, Charleston, MA 02129, USA.


On November 8-9, 2007, the Society for Acupuncture Research (SAR) hosted an international conference to mark the tenth anniversary of the landmark NIH [National Institutes of Health] Consensus Development Conference on Acupuncture. More than 300 acupuncture researchers, practitioners, students, funding agency personnel, and health policy analysts from 20 countries attended the SAR meeting held at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD. This paper summarizes important invited lectures in the area of basic and translational acupuncture research. Specific areas include the scientific assessment of acupuncture points and meridians, the neural mechanisms of cardiovascular regulation by acupuncture, mechanisms for electroacupuncture applied to persistent inflammation and pain, basic and translational research on acupuncture in gynecologic applications, the application of functional neuroimaging to acupuncture research with specific application to carpal-tunnel syndrome and fibromyalgia, and the association of the connective tissue system to acupuncture research. In summary, mechanistic models for acupuncture effects that have been investigated experimentally have focused on the effects of acupuncture needle stimulation on the nervous system, muscles, and connective tissue. These mechanistic models are not mutually exclusive. Iterative testing, expanding, and perhaps merging of such models will potentially lead to an incremental understanding of the effects of manual and electrical stimulation of acupuncture needles that is solidly rooted in physiology.

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