Neuroimaging acupuncture effects on human brain activity

Project leader: Kathleen Hui, MD

Project 1 aims to identify the brain networks influenced by acupuncture and to explore the interactions among those brain regions in healthy subjects. We hypothesize that the limbic system and default mode network (DMN) constitute major pathways of acupuncture action. Our studies on healthy adults have demonstrated that acupuncture is associated with extensive deactivation in brain regions intimately related to emotion, cognition, and sensory processing, which form a limbic-paralimbic-neocortical network (LPNN) with functional and effective connectivity. We have also discovered that the brain regions that make up the DMN overlap with many LPNN regions influenced by acupuncture. We will apply fMRI to explore the possible presence of subsystems in the DMN and LPNN by comparing the central effects of acupuncture with those of cognitive task and tactile stimulation in healthy subjects. We hypothesize that the temporo-spatial characteristics of acupuncture effects on the DMNandLPNN will overlap for different tasks, but that the preferential spatial distribution will differ. Wewill explore and compare the effects of these external stimuli on the functional and effectiveconnectivity of these networks. By demonstrating scientific evidence of acupuncture's beneficial effects on intrinsic regulatory brain organization, this project will help to promote the integrationof this ancient treatment into modern medical practice.