Acupuncture points FMRI

How does acupuncture work

“Does acupuncture work” – asked an orthopedic surgeon, whom I met at a social gathering. I told him there were numerous studies to show it did, and as an example mentioned a new study published in the current issue of Nature magazine.

“Of forty mice with induced sepsis, all 20, who received acupuncture lived. Another 20 received fake acupuncture and half of them died” – I said. [Sepsis is a deadly condition caused by whole-body inflammation.]

“I don’t believe this” – he said. “Sepsis! How could acupuncture ever touch sepsis ?”

“It’s all legit, published in the current issue of Nature magazine” – I fired back.

“I don’t believe this” – he insisted.

I pulled out my smartphone to show him the study.

“Well, it’s just one study. I don’t believe this. Maybe, I’d believe it, if a recommendation came from the World Health Organisation or NHI”.

I put my phone to good use again and a minute later, I’m on WHO website with the list of condition acupuncture has been shown to work for.

“I still don’t believe it works!”

At that point, I made a joke “if you were a real doctor, but not an orthopedic surgeon, you would have more appreciation for the studies” , I teased him. Then I changed the subject. It was not my business to convince him. It was just a chat at a party. ¬†He asked, I answered kind of thing.

But later, my mind brought me back to this. How to convince the sceptics. I need an image, that would just explain it in a split second. FMRI brain scans!

FMRI or functional magnetic imaging can visually show increased activity in various centres of the brain by measuring the blood flow. There are numerous studies on acupuncture published in peer-reviewed magazines. An image below is a good example, showing the specificity of various acupuncture points. You can see different areas of the brain get activated depending on the acupuncture points being usedref 1. The image above this article shows activation of visual cortex in response to treatment of BL60, an acupuncture point associated with visual healingref 2.

acupuncture fmri

Acupuncture evidence trends

Interest in Acupuncture is heating up

Acupuncture is the most researched natural therapy. And the scientific interest in Acupuncture is increasing.

The graph illustrates a number of studies on acupuncture yearly in the PubMed database from 1996 to 2012. I used actual data from them for this graph. ¬†I’ve excluded data from 2013, as at the time of this observation the year was still in progress.

How acupuncture helps dementia

Dementia – Acupuncture improves cognitive function

Acupuncture improves cognitive function of patients suffering from vascular dementia.  This was the conclusion of a study conducted at department of Acupuncture of Beijing Hospital of TCM.

The researchers used evaluated cognitive function, life quality and measured 8-OHdG (markers of oxidative stress in the urine) before and after acupuncture. Their findings confirmed that acupuncture reduces the levels of 8-OHdG and improves cognitive function and quality of life in vascular dementia patients.

The findings were published in the current issue of the Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine [2012, 32(2):199-202].