Acupuncture for parkinson's disease - the mechanism explained

Parkinson’s disease – acupuncture helps to regulate dopamine

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter, a chemical messenger that plays a crucial role in transmitting signals within the brain and other areas of the body. It is involved in many essential functions, including movement, motivation, reward, and the regulation of mood.

In Parkinson’s disease (PD), dopamine-producing neurons in a part of the brain called the substantia nigra start to degenerate and die. This leads to a decline in dopamine levels, which disrupts the delicate balance of neurotransmitters needed for smooth and coordinated movement. As a result, the characteristic motor symptoms of PD, such as tremors, rigidity, bradykinesia (slowness of movement), and postural instability, begin to manifest.

The primary treatment for Parkinson’s disease involves the use of medications that either replenish dopamine levels or mimic its effects.

To investigate the effect of acupuncture on dopamine levels, the lead researcher Sabina Lim at Kyung Hee University in Seoul used a standard mouse model of inducing Parkinson’s disease, in which injections of a chemical known as MPTP kill off brain cells that manufacture dopamine.

Some of the injected mice were then administered acupuncture specific to treatment of Parkinson’s. Another group of mice received acupuncture in two spots on the hips, not believed to be effective for Parkinson’s, while a third group had no acupuncture at all.

By the end of seven days, the MPTP injections had decreased dopamine levels, both in the mice that had not had acupuncture, and in the mice that received ‘pretend’ acupuncture, to about half the normal amount. But in the acupuncture-treated group, dopamine levels declined much less steeply, and nearly 80% of the dopamine remained.

The study has been published in Brain Research1. (ANI)

This groundbreaking research invites us to consider acupuncture’s hidden potential as an ally in the fight against Parkinson’s disease.

1 reply
  1. Alysia Anderson L.Ac says:

    I thought that this study might be a good reference to the research study on acupuncture to regulate dopamine since it also pieces together acupuncture stimulation and dopamine:

    THE STUDY: In 1999, a scientific study using MRI was performed to determine how acupuncture stimulation influenced the brain (CNS). The study revealed that when two points were stimulated (ST 36, and LI4), ACTIVATION of the hypothalamus (part of brain involved in controlling the release of many hormones from the pituitary gland) and the nucleus accumbens (part of brain associated with motivation, reward and dopamine activity): and DEACTIVATION of rostral part of anterior cingulated cortex (associated with “executive function”, or goal representaion and maintenance, evaluative process, strategic process and performance) amygdala formation (regulates emotions and triggers response to danger), and hippocampal complex (part of the brain that assists in storing memory by sorting and sending new bits of information to other parts of the brain).
    So what does this mean in layman terms? Stimulation of certain acupuncture points activates hormones and/or areas of the brain which are known to reduce sensitivity to pain and stress as well as promoting relaxation AND deactivating those areas of the “analytical” brain, responsible for excess thinking, memory or anxiety.

    When the body is constantly in a state of stress (whether it be from pain, emotional, or even a work situation) this is known as the “flight or fight” response. The “flight or fight response” activates our Sympathetic Nervous System. The sympathetic nervous system focuses our bodies so that we may try to escape the impending danger or stress. Our breathing and heart rate increase, and many of our body parts contract in order to increase blood oxygenation specifically to our heart and muscles so that we may be better capable of running away. Constriction shunts blood and secretions away from the skin and digestive tract, our pupils expand urine is retained (You can’t fight a bear when you are urinating or having a bowel movement, and its not a necessity to digest that big meal you had for lunch) When the body is relaxed, the Parasympathetic Nervous System kicks in. The heart rate slows down, and smooth digestive function ensues, much needed nutrient rich blood and secretions are able to flow through the body and its many organs, the pupils relax and the breath slows down.
    I am a Licensed acupunturist in Portland Oregon and I operate out of my own clinic For a wealth of educational information on Chinese Medicine, please my TCM page. Alysia Anderson, L.Ac

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