Acupuncture Stimulates Regions of the Brain
In this meta-analysis of studies conducted to investigate the effects of acupuncture needle stimulation on regions of the brain, assessed via functional MRI studies, a total of 51 acupuncture and 10 tactile stimulation experiments were examined and included in the analysis. The authors found that acupuncture needle stimulation was found to activate the sensorimotor cortical network, including the insula, thalamus, anterior cingulate cortex, and primary and secondary somatosensory cortices, and deactivation in the limbic-paralimbic neocortical network, including the medial prefrontal cortex, caudate, amygdala, posterior cingulate cortex, and parahippocampus—as compared to the control tactile stimulation which led to weaker patterns of brain responses in similar regions of the brain.
The authors state, "The activation and deactivation patterns following acupuncture stimulation suggest that the hemodynamic responses in the brain simultaneously reflect the sensory, cognitive, and affective dimensions of pain."
Additional research in this area will help to further elucidate the ways in which acupuncture alleviates pain.