Medical Research

Involvement of the mechanoreceptors in the sensory mechanisms of manual and electrical acupuncture.

Kristen Sparrow • May 24, 2011

I bring this study to your attention for a few reasons.
1. I really like studies that get down to the real nitty gritty of the mechanisms behind acupuncture and what is really happening on a tissue level. To actually ask the question of whether manual and electro acupuncture use the same receptor is something I wouldn’t have really thought about, and the answer is interesting to me. They do use the same receptor.
2. This study is out of the Cardiology Department at the University of Kinki in Japan. So they thought enough of it to fund the study.
3. Even in anesthetized rats, the depressor and bradycardic response was quite pronounced and statistically significant. This falls into the category “So there! Placebo skeptics!”
4. They used hindleg points to study the depressor response. This would not be the point selection I would have used, so am curious why they chose those points and what their corollary would be in a human subject.
5. I had no idea that there was a specific mechanoreceptor blocker, gadolinium.

What do you readers think of this study?
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Involvement of the mechanoreceptors in the sensory mechanisms of manual and electrical acupuncture.
Auton Neurosci. 2011 Feb 24;160(1-2):27-31. Epub 2010 Dec 16.
Yamamoto H, Kawada T, Kamiya A, Miyazaki S, Sugimachi M.
Division of Cardiology, Department of Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, Kinki University, Osaka, Japan.


The modalities of acupuncture can be broadly classified into manual acupuncture (MA) and electroacupuncture (EA). Although MA has been reported to cause winding of tissue around the needle and subsequent activation of the sensory mechanoreceptors and nociceptors, the sensory mechanisms of acupuncture stimulation are not fully understood. To test the hypothesis that the involvement of the mechanoreceptors in the sensory mechanism is different in MA and EA, we examined the effects of a stretch-activated channel blocker gadolinium on the hemodynamic responses to hind limb MA and EA in anesthetized rats (n = 9). Gadolinium significantly attenuated the MA-induced bradycardic response (-22 ± 5 vs. -10 ± 3 bpm, P<0.05) and tended to attenuate the MA-induced depressor response (-30 ± 5 vs. -18 ± 4 mmHg, P = 0.06). On the other hand, gadolinium significantly attenuated both the EA-induced bradycardic (-22 ± 5 vs. -9 ± 4 bpm, P<0.01) and depressor responses (-32 ± 6 vs. -15 ± 5 mmHg, P<0.01). These results indicate that the mechanoreceptors are involved in the sensory mechanisms for both MA and EA.