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  Characterizing acupuncture stimuli using brain imaging with fMRI: A systematic review and meta-analysis of the literature

Huang, W., Pach, D., Napadow, V., Park, K., Long, X., Neumann, J., et al. (2012). Characterizing acupuncture stimuli using brain imaging with fMRI: A systematic review and meta-analysis of the literature. PLoS One, 7(4): e32960. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0032960.

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Huang, Wenjing1, 2, Author
Pach, Daniel1, Author
Napadow, Vitaly3, 4, Author
Park, Kyungmo5, Author
Long, Xiangyu6, Author
Neumann, Jane6, 7, Author              
Maeda, Yumi3, 4, Author
Nierhaus, Till6, 8, Author              
Liang, Fanrong2, Author
Witt, Claudia M.1, 9, Author
1Institute for Social Medicine, Epidemiology and Health Economics, Charité University Medicine Berlin, Germany, ou_persistent22              
2Chengdu University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, China, ou_persistent22              
3Department of Radiology, Athinoula A. Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging, Charlestown, MA, USA, ou_persistent22              
4Department of Radiology, Logan College of Chiropractic, Chesterfield, MO, USA, ou_persistent22              
5Department of Biomedical Engineering, Kyung Hee University, Seoul, Republic of Korea, ou_persistent22              
6Department Neurology, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society, ou_634549              
7Integrated Research and Treatment Center Adiposity Diseases, University of Leipzig, Germany, ou_persistent22              
8Berlin Neuroimaging Center, Charité University Medicine Berlin, Germany, ou_persistent22              
9Cemter for Integrative Medicine, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, USA, ou_persistent22              


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 Abstract: Background The mechanisms of action underlying acupuncture, including acupuncture point specificity, are not well understood. In the previous decade, an increasing number of studies have applied fMRI to investigate brain response to acupuncture stimulation. Our aim was to provide a systematic overview of acupuncture fMRI research considering the following aspects: 1) differences between verum and sham acupuncture, 2) differences due to various methods of acupuncture manipulation, 3) differences between patients and healthy volunteers, 4) differences between different acupuncture points. Methodology/Principal Findings We systematically searched English, Chinese, Korean and Japanese databases for literature published from the earliest available up until September 2009, without any language restrictions. We included all studies using fMRI to investigate the effect of acupuncture on the human brain (at least one group that received needle-based acupuncture). 779 papers were identified, 149 met the inclusion criteria for the descriptive analysis, and 34 were eligible for the meta-analyses. From a descriptive perspective, multiple studies reported that acupuncture modulates activity within specific brain areas, including somatosensory cortices, limbic system, basal ganglia, brain stem, and cerebellum. Meta-analyses for verum acupuncture stimuli confirmed brain activity within many of the regions mentioned above. Differences between verum and sham acupuncture were noted in brain response in middle cingulate, while some heterogeneity was noted for other regions depending on how such meta-analyses were performed, such as sensorimotor cortices, limbic regions, and cerebellum. Conclusions Brain response to acupuncture stimuli encompasses a broad network of regions consistent with not just somatosensory, but also affective and cognitive processing. While the results were heterogeneous, from a descriptive perspective most studies suggest that acupuncture can modulate the activity within specific brain areas, and the evidence based on meta-analyses confirmed some of these results. More high quality studies with more transparent methodology are needed to improve the consistency amongst different studies.


Language(s): eng - English
 Dates: 2011-06-142012-02-082012-04-09
 Publication Status: Published online
 Pages: -
 Publishing info: -
 Table of Contents: -
 Rev. Type: Peer
 Identifiers: DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0032960
PMID: 22496739
PMC: PMC3322129
Other: Epub 2012
 Degree: -



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Title: PLoS One
Source Genre: Journal
Publ. Info: San Francisco, CA : Public Library of Science
Pages: - Volume / Issue: 7 (4) Sequence Number: e32960 Start / End Page: - Identifier: ISSN: 1932-6203
CoNE: https://pure.mpg.de/cone/journals/resource/1000000000277850