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Magn Reson Imaging. 2013 Sep;31(7):1105-11. doi: 10.1016/j.mri.2013.01.006. Epub 2013 May 16.

Long-duration transcutaneous electric acupoint stimulation alters small-world brain functional networks.

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College of Engineering, Peking University, Beijing, China.


Acupuncture, which is recognized as an alternative and complementary treatment in Western medicine, has long shown efficiencies in chronic pain relief, drug addiction treatment, stroke rehabilitation and other clinical practices. The neural mechanism underlying acupuncture, however, is still unclear. Many studies have focused on the sustained effects of acupuncture on healthy subjects, yet there are very few on the topological organization of functional networks in the whole brain in response to long-duration acupuncture (longer than 20 min). This paper presents a novel study on the effects of long-duration transcutaneous electric acupoint stimulation (TEAS) on the small-world properties of brain functional networks. Functional magnetic resonance imaging was used to construct brain functional networks of 18 healthy subjects (9 males and 9 females) during the resting state. All subjects received both TEAS and minimal TEAS (MTEAS) and were scanned before and after each stimulation. An altered functional network was found with lower local efficiency and no significant change in global efficiency for healthy subjects after TEAS, while no significant difference was observed after MTEAS. The experiments also showed that the nodal efficiencies in several paralimbic/limbic regions were altered by TEAS, and those in middle frontal gyrus and other regions by MTEAS. To remove the psychological effects and the baseline, we compared the difference between diffTEAS (difference between after and before TEAS) and diffMTEAS (difference between after and before MTEAS). The results showed that the local efficiency was decreased and that the nodal efficiencies in frontal gyrus, orbitofrontal cortex, anterior cingulate gyrus and hippocampus gyrus were changed. Based on those observations, we conclude that long-duration TEAS may modulate the short-range connections of brain functional networks and also the limbic system.


Brain functional networks; Long-duration transcutaneous electric acupoint stimulation (TEAS); Resting-state fMRI; Small-world

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