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Neural Encoding of Acupuncture Needling Sensations: Evidence from a fMRI Study

1Department of Radiology, Guang An Men Hospital, China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences, Beijing, China.
2Athinoula A. Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging, Department of Radiology, Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Charlestown, MA, USA.
Publication Date:
Evid Based Complement Alternat Med.
Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2013 Aug; 2013: 483105.
PubMed ID:
Appears in Collections:
R21 AT000978/AT/NCCAM NIH HHS/United States
F05 AT003022/AT/NCCAM NIH HHS/United States
P41 RR014075/RR/NCRR NIH HHS/United States
U54 EB005149/EB/NIBIB NIH HHS/United States
U24 RR021382/RR/NCRR NIH HHS/United States
R01 NS034189/NS/NINDS NIH HHS/United States
Generated Citation:
Wang X., Chan S-T., Fang J., Nixon E.E., Liu J., Kwong K.K., Rosen B.R., Hui K.K. Neural Encoding of Acupuncture Needling Sensations: Evidence from a fMRI Study. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2013 Aug; 2013: 483105. PMID: 24062782. PMCID: PMC3766991.
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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.

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