Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2013;2013:483105 doi: 10.1155/2013/483105. 2013 Aug 25.

Neural encoding of acupuncture needling sensations: evidence from a FMRI study

Wang X, Chan ST, Fang J, Nixon EE, Liu J, Kwong KK, Rosen BR, Hui KK.


Deqi response, a psychophysical response characterized by a spectrum of different needling sensations, is essential for Chinese acupuncture clinical efficacy. Previous neuroimaging research works have investigated the neural correlates of an overall deqi response by summating the scores of different needling sensations. However, the roles of individual sensations in brain activity and how they interact with each other remain to be clarified. In this study, we applied fMRI to investigate the neural correlates of individual components of deqi during acupuncture on the right LV3 (Taichong) acupoint. We selected a subset of deqi responses, namely, pressure, heaviness, fullness, numbness, and tingling. Using the individual components of deqi of different subjects as covariates in the analysis of percentage change of bold signal, pressure was found to be a striking sensation, contributing to most of negative activation of a limbic-paralimbic-neocortical network (LPNN). The similar or opposite neural activity in the heavily overlapping regions is found to be responding to different needling sensations, including bilateral LPNN, right orbitofrontal cortex, and bilateral posterior parietal cortex. These findings provide the neuroimaging evidence of how the individual needle sensations interact in the brain, showing that the modulatory effects of different needling sensations contribute to acupuncture modulations of LPNN network.

PMID: 24062782