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Front Hum Neurosci. 2015 Feb 13;9:74. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2015.00074. eCollection 2015.

Differential cerebral response to somatosensory stimulation of an acupuncture point vs. two non-acupuncture points measured with EEG and fMRI.

Author information

1
Mind-Brain Institute at Berlin School of Mind and Brain, Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin and Humboldt-University Berlin, Germany ; Department of Neurology, Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences Leipzig, Germany.
2
Institute for Social Medicine, Epidemiology, and Health Economics, Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin Berlin, Germany.
3
Institute for Social Medicine, Epidemiology, and Health Economics, Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin Berlin, Germany ; Acupuncture and Tuina School, Chengdu University of Traditional Chinese Medicine Chengdu, China.
4
Department of Neurology, Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences Leipzig, Germany.
5
Department of Radiology, Athinoula A. Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging, Massachusetts General Hospital Charlestown, MA, USA ; Department of Radiology, Logan University Chesterfield, MO, USA.
6
Acupuncture and Tuina School, Chengdu University of Traditional Chinese Medicine Chengdu, China.
7
Institute for Social Medicine, Epidemiology, and Health Economics, Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin Berlin, Germany ; Institute for Complementary and Integrative Medicine, University Hospital Zurich Zurich, Switzerland.

Abstract

Acupuncture can be regarded as a complex somatosensory stimulation. Here, we evaluate whether the point locations chosen for a somatosensory stimulation with acupuncture needles differently change the brain activity in healthy volunteers. We used EEG, event-related fMRI, and resting-state functional connectivity fMRI to assess neural responses to standardized needle stimulation of the acupuncture point ST36 (lower leg) and two control point locations (CP1 same dermatome, CP2 different dermatome). Cerebral responses were expected to differ for stimulation in two different dermatomes (CP2 different from ST36 and CP1), or stimulation at the acupuncture point vs. the control points. For EEG, mu rhythm power increased for ST36 compared to CP1 or CP2, but not when comparing the two control points. The fMRI analysis found more pronounced insula and S2 (secondary somatosensory cortex) activation, as well as precuneus deactivation during ST36 stimulation. The S2 seed-based functional connectivity analysis revealed increased connectivity to right precuneus for both comparisons, ST36 vs. CP1 and ST36 vs. CP2, however in different regions. Our results suggest that stimulation at acupuncture points may modulate somatosensory and saliency processing regions more readily than stimulation at non-acupuncture point locations. Also, our findings suggest potential modulation of pain perception due to acupuncture stimulation.

KEYWORDS:

acupuncture; background rhythm; electroencephalography (EEG); functional connectivity; functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI); somatosensory stimulation

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