Dr. Wenjing Huang at Charité University Medical Center, Berlin, Germany, published a review entitled “Characterizing Acupuncture Stimuli Using Brain Imaging with fMRI - A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of the Literature”. The team included all studies using fMRI to investigate the effect of acupuncture on the human brain. Each study had to have at least one group, which received an intervention with any type of needle-based acupuncture. They included trials on healthy volunteers as well as patients and all types of needle acupuncture were accepted. There were no language restrictions and no limitations on outcome measures. Reviews, editorials and trials on animals were excluded.
The team generated on a descriptive level map of 18 acupuncture points from 46 publications, which reported pre-post data on Talairach coordinates. These 18 points were located along 9 meridians. The brain maps of each acupuncture point differ considerably from each other. However, the acupuncture points on the same meridian showed some similarities among the activation/deactivation pattern. For example, the points on the stomach meridian showed activation in the supramarginal gyrus and deactivation in the posterior cingulate, hippocampus, and parahippocampus. In addition, the vision related points GB37 and UB60 showed deactivation in the visual areas such as the cuneus.
This research result provides a foundation for stimulation of acupuncture points on functional change of brain, which can be used to guide acupuncture clinical practice on mental disorders such as anxiety, depression, bipolar disorders, and panic attack.