Well, I was just so happy to hear from one of my colleagues the other day about research coming out of Mass General in Boston. It is a study using fMRI to map the effects of acupuncture in the brain. Apparently, this double blind research (,sham vs. real acupuncture) shows how real acupuncture causes increased activity in the areas of the brain related to emotion (amygdala, anterior cingulate gyrus) and memory (hippocampus). What is most exciting to me is the idea that we are training the body to decrease pain, not just by blocking pain reception, but by causing learning of correct postures/alignment via nerve firing. It's been awhile since I was looking around in Pubmed, but behold! A wealth of studies coming out of reputable Western medical institutions and journals proving our case, albeit using different language. We are perhaps used to seeing too many faulty and biased studies, or too many anecdotal case studies that are dismissed by our Western medical colleagues. Here in NYC, Columbia Medical University is currently conducting a large scale study on acupuncture's effects on specific symptoms, but this is the first study I've seen since I was in school focusing specifically on the brain itself. I am always interested to see how else we can explain the effects of acupuncture to patients..so far I've got TCM theory, endorphins, gate theory of pain, inflammation cascade...what other studies has everyone seen that explains why we do what we do....?
Each month (unless I run out of time) I take a few interesting studies and highlight them in our research synopses (found here). In addition to being posted in our site, they are delivered via our practitioner newsletter which anyone can subscribe to. With regards to explaining these functions to patients you may find a recent article I put together entitled "How Does Acupuncture Work?" interesting/useful. There is definitely a tremendous amount of interesting research being done. When read correctly they are invaluable...
These are just some of the records from our database at our school/clinic:
fMRI scans show acupuncturing points traditionally used for eye treatment activates the visual cortex of the brain. Stimulation of a major analgesia point leads to deactivation in the frontal area of the brain. Puncturing Neiguan (PC 6) regulates heart rhythm. Points Hegu (LI4) and Zusanli (ST36) increases the release of 17-OHCS and 17KS hormones. Zusanli (ST36) affects the movement of stomach. Zhongwan (RN12) promotes gastric secretion while Gongsun (SP4) and Neiguan (SP6) suppresses it. Danshu (BL19) and Riyue (GB24) leads to gallbladder contraction and Zhangmen (LR13) shows gallbladder expansion.
Just some of the researches. I am also doing studies at European universities where extensive researches have been done also using fMRI brain imaging, Laser Doppler Prefusion imaging showing placebo vs. real acupuncture treatments. They are using computerized systems where small suction cups are attached to the patients - over the acu-points - and through fiberoptic cables computers deliver the necessary 'doses'. Europe is way ahead of us in researches and accepting TCM as a legitimate modality in the general health care.
(Am I glad I took those German courses in highschool and in college?) :)
Wunderbar! The first study you mention is the one I remember from school. I have a bit of statistics in my background, so I am even happier when I see objective studies. The study at Columbia (focusing on symptoms) is great, but I am looking specifically for large sample sized, fMRI studies mapping brain activity. And of course, well designed studies of any sort are undeniable to people who have difficulty with the subjective and anecdotal. So thanks, I will start looking those up :)
What is interesting to me is that placebo effect is an argument used against acupuncture, but placebo effect is present in all modalities. Who hasn't had a horrible cold, and then suddenly felt better when finally getting to that doctor's appointment. The idea that you are going to an appointment where you are about to be taken care of, by a trusted professional (whether M.D. or L.Ac) is very powerful and nothing to be sneezed at :P
And thanks for the link, the "How Does" article is a great resource for patients
cdobbelaere: Ja, das ist wirklich gut dass ich ein bisschen Deutsch sprechen kann ;).
Here is another interesting research I have been investigating for a while now, I first came across this in an article in the publication Acupuncture Today, the article is written by David Milbradt LAc and describes a new channel system that was originally discovered in 1963 by North Korean researcher Kim Bong-han but discounted by other scientist because Bong-han was unwilling to release the formula for the dye he used to make the new channels visible. This physical channel system runs along the acupuncture meridian system and believed to be a high level (two-way) communication system in the body - vs. the lower, one-way communicating nervous system - and also seem to play an important role in the development of the organ system.
Currently the Seoul National University is considred to be one of the leaders conducting researches on these new channels (here is a video on Youtube I could find quick) and hopefully this will shed new lights as well as lay a foundation for an actual physical channel that shows the acupuncture meridian system; and western medicine - that is largely based on 'I believe it if I see it' -can actually see a physical representation of the meridian system. This could be a significant step in the unification of Eastern and Western Medicine.
very, very cool. thanks :)