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J Altern Complement Med. 2009 Nov;15(11):1193-200. doi: 10.1089/acm.2008.0602.

Effects of scalp acupuncture versus upper and lower limb acupuncture on signal activation of blood oxygen level dependent (BOLD) fMRI of the brain and somatosensory cortex.

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Department of Cardiovascular & Neurologic Disease (Stroke Center), East-West Neo Medical Center, College of Oriental Medicine, Kyunghee University, Seoul, Korea.



The objective of this article is to investigate brain activity of scalp acupuncture (SA) as compared to upper and lower limb acupuncture (ULLA) using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).


Ten (10) healthy right-handed female volunteers aged 20-35 were divided into 2 groups: a SA group and an ULLA group. The SA group had needles inserted at the left Sishencong (HN1), GB18, GB9, TH20, and the ULLA group at the right LI1, LI10, LV3, ST36 for 20 minutes, respectively. Both groups had tactile stimulation in the order of the right LI1, LI10, LV3, ST36 before and after acupuncture for a block of 21 seconds repeated 3 times. The blood oxygen level dependent (BOLD) fMRI was used to observe the brain and somatosensory cortex signal activation.


We compared the signal activation before and after acupuncture needling, and the images showed signal activation after removing the acupuncture needles and the contralateral somatosensory association cortex, the postcentral gyrus, and the parietal lobe were more activated in the SA group. The right occipital lobe, the lingual gyrus, the visual association cortex, the right parahippocampal gyrus, the limbic lobe, the hippocampus, the left anterior lobe, the culmen, and the cerebellum were activated in the ULLA group.


We concluded that there were different signal activations of BOLD fMRI before and after SA versus ULLA, which can be thought to be caused by the sensitivity of acupoints and the different sensory receptors to acupuncture needling.

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