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Magn Reson Imaging. 2011 Sep;29(7):958-65. doi: 10.1016/j.mri.2011.04.009. Epub 2011 May 25.

Investigation of the large-scale functional brain networks modulated by acupuncture.

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Key Laboratory of Complex Systems and Intelligence Science, Institute of Automation, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100190, China.


Previous neuroimaging studies have primarily focused on the neural activities involving the acute effects of acupuncture. Considering that acupuncture can induce long-lasting effects, several researchers have begun to pay attention to the sustained effects of acupuncture on the resting brain. Most of these researchers adopted functional connectivity analysis based on one or a few preselected brain regions and demonstrated various function-guided brain networks underlying the specific effect of acupuncture. Few have investigated how these brain networks interacted at the whole-brain level. In this study, we sought to investigate the functional correlations throughout the entire brain following acupuncture at acupoint ST36 (ACUP) in comparison with acupuncture at nearby nonacupoint (SHAM). We divided the whole brain into 90 regions and constructed functional brain network for each condition. Then we examined the network hubs and identified statistically significant differences in functional correlations between the two conditions. Following ACUP, but not SHAM, the limbic/paralimbic regions such as the amygdala, hippocampus and anterior cingulate gyrus emerged as network hubs. For direct comparisons, increased correlations for ACUP compared to SHAM were primarily related with the limbic/paralimbic and subcortical regions such as the insula, amygdala, anterior cingulate gyrus, and thalamus, whereas decreased correlations were mainly related with the sensory and frontal cortex. The heterogeneous modulation patterns between the two conditions may relate to the functional specific modulatory effects of acupuncture. The preliminary findings may help us to better understand the long-lasting effects of acupuncture on the entire resting brain, as well as the neurophysiological mechanisms underlying acupuncture.

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