Kristen Sparrow • April 27, 2014
Study showing how the brain reacts differently to acupuncture in subjects with carpal tunnel disease and healthy controls.
Most neuroimaging studies exploring brain response to different acupoints have been performed in healthy adults.
The aim of this study was to compare brain responses to acupuncture at local versus distal acupoints in patients with carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS), who have chronic pain, versus healthy controls (HC) and correlate these responses with median nerve function.
Brain response to electroacupuncture (EA; 2Hz) was evaluated with event-related functional MRI (fMRI) in patients with CTS (n=37) and age-matched HC (n=30). EA was applied at acupoints local (PC 7 to TW 5) and distal (SP 6 to LV 4) to the CTS lesions.
Brain response in both groups and acupoints included activation of the bilateral secondary somatosensory cortex (S2) and insula, and the contralesional primary somatosensory cortex (cS1). Deactivation was noted in ipsilesional primary somatosensory cortex (S1). A significant difference between local and distal acupoints was found in cS1 for HC, but not CTS. Furthermore, cS1 activation by EA at local acupoints was negatively correlated with median nerve peak sensory latency in HC, but was positively correlated in CTS. No correlation was found for EA at distal acupoints for either group.
Brain response to EA differs between CTS and HC and, for local acupoint stimulation, is associated with median nerve function, reflecting the peripheral nerve pathophysiology of CTS.