Neuroplasticity studies are relevant to stroke recovery and other neurological impairments. Acupuncture is commonly used in China for stroke victims. This gives some added credibility to the practice.
While neuroplasticity changes measured by transcranial magnetic stimulation have been proved to be highly correlated to motor recovery and have been tested in various forms of interventions, it has not been applied to investigate the neurophysiologic mechanism of acupuncture therapy. The aim of this study is to investigate neuroplasticity changes induced by a single session of acupuncture therapy in healthy adults, regarding the excitability change on bilateral primary motor cortex and interhemispheric inhibition. Ten subjects took a 30-minute acupuncture therapy and the same length relaxing phase in separate days. Transcranial magnetic stimulation measures, including resting motor threshold, amplitudes of motor-evoked potential, and interhemispheric inhibition, were assessed before and 10 minutes after intervention. Acupuncture treatment showed significant changes on potential amplitude from both ipsilateral and contralateral hemispheres to acupuncture compared to baseline. Also, interhemispheric inhibition from the contralateral motor cortex to the opposite showed a significant decline. The results indicated that corticomotoneuronal excitability and interhemispheric competition could be modulated by acupuncture therapy on healthy subjects. The following question about whether these changes will be observed in the same way on stroke patients and whether they correlate with the therapeutic effect on movement need to be answered by following studies. This trial is registered with ISRCTN13074245.