Medical Research

Autonomic NS and Acupuncture: Brain Mapping, Napadow

Kristen Sparrow • April 22, 2012

Vitaly Napadow has another paper looking at the ANS (Autonomic Nervous System) and acupuncture in conjunction with brain imaging. I’ve highlighted some of Napadow’s work here and here, he shares my interest in the ANS and acupuncture. (If you put his name in the search field of this blog you’ll find some of his other work.) In this study, they look at different acupuncture points and correlate them with changes in Heart Rate (HR) and Skin Conductance (SC). They then look at the areas of the brain that are activated.
Hum Brain Mapp. 2012 Apr 14. doi: 10.1002/hbm.22091. [Epub ahead of print]Brain correlates of phasic autonomic response to acupuncture stimulation:An event-related fMRI
study.Napadow V, Lee J, Kim J, Cina S, Maeda Y, Barbieri R,
Harris RE, Kettner N, Park K.SourceMartinos Center for Biomedical Imaging,
Department of Radiology, Massachusetts General Hospital, Charlestown,
Massachusetts; Department of Radiology, Logan College of Chiropractic,
Chesterfield, Missouri.
Autonomic nervous system (ANS) response to acupuncture has been
investigated by multiple studies; however, the brain circuitry underlying this
response is not well understood. We applied event-related fMRI (er-fMRI) in
conjunction with ANS recording (heart rate, HR; skin conductance response, SCR).
Brief manual acupuncture stimuli were delivered at acupoints ST36 and SP9, while
sham stimuli were delivered at control location, SH1. Acupuncture produced
activation in S2, insula, and mid-cingulate cortex, and deactivation in default
mode network (DMN) areas. On average, HR deceleration (HR-) and SCR were noted
following both real and sham acupuncture, though magnitude of response was
greater following real acupuncture and inter-subject magnitude of response
correlated with evoked sensation intensity. Acupuncture events with strong SCR
also produced greater anterior insula activation than without SCR. Moreover,
acupuncture at SP9, which produced greater SCR, also produced stronger sharp
pain sensation, and greater anterior insula activation. Conversely,
acupuncture-induced HR- was associated with greater DMN deactivation.
Between-event correlation demonstrated that this association was strongest for
ST36, which also produced more robust HR-. In fact, DMN deactivation was
significantly more pronounced across acupuncture stimuli producing HR-, versus
those events characterized by acceleration (HR+). Thus, differential brain
response underlying acupuncture stimuli may be related to differential autonomic
outflows and may result from heterogeneity in evoked sensations. Our er-fMRI
approach suggests that ANS response to acupuncture, consistent with previously
characterized orienting and startle/defense responses, arises from activity
within distinct subregions of the more general brain circuitry responding to
acupuncture stimuli. Hum Brain Mapp , 2012