Figure 1: Activation of the visual cortex due to the stimulation of an acupuncture point related to the visual system.
Acupuncture is a treatment for pain and illness in which thin needles are positioned just under the surface of the skin at special nerve centers around the body. It originated in China over 3000 years ago, but despite its longevity Western medicine has been reluctant to accept acupuncture as a valid method of treatment.
This study investigates the effect of acupuncture on the brain using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Test subjects were notified that they would receive some form of acupuncture during the imaging but were unfamiliar with the procedure. The resulting functional maps show that when the visual acupuncture point (Figure 1) is stimulated the visual cortex is activated, and that when the auditory acupuncture point (Figure 2) is stimulated there is bilateral auditory cortex activation. This National Institutes of Health, National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine funded work will investigate the time course of the activation, the effect of a combination of points and the activation induced by sham points.
Figure 2: Activation of the auditory cortex due to the stimulation of an acupuncture point related to the auditory system.