Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

Acupuncture changes brain’s perception and processing of pain

From a November 30, 2010 Eureka news alert

CHICAGO – Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), researchers have captured pictures of the brain while patients experienced a pain stimulus with and without acupuncture to determine acupuncture’s effect on how the brain processes pain. Results of the study, which the researchers say suggest the effectiveness of acupuncture, were presented today at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA)….
….”Activation of brain areas involved in pain perception was significantly reduced or modulated under acupuncture,” Dr. Theysohn said.

Specifically, fMRI revealed significant activation in the contralateral supplementary motor area, somatosensory cortex, precuneus bilateral insula and ipsilateral somatomotor cortex during electrical pain stimulation without acupuncture. During acupuncture, activation in most of these pain-processing areas of the brain was significantly reduced.

According to Dr. Theysohn, in addition to the assumed specific effects on the pain signal, acupuncture also affected brain activation in areas governing the patients’ expectations of pain, similar to a placebo analgesic response.

The anterior insula, for example, plays a role in transforming pain sensation to cognition and represents a subjective component of pain sensation. The reduction in activation of the primary somatosensory cortex and the insula during acupuncture indicates an acupuncture-induced modulation of the sensory encoding of the painful stimulus.

“Acupuncture is supposed to act through at least two mechanisms—nonspecific expectancy-based effects and specific modulation of the incoming pain signal,” Dr. Theysohn said. “Our findings support that both these nonspecific and specific mechanisms exist, suggesting that acupuncture can help relieve pain.”

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Coauthors are Kyung-Eun Choi, M.Sc., Elke Gizewski, M.D., Ph.D., Thomas Rampp, M.D., Gustav Dobos, M.D., Ph.D., Michael Forsting, M.D., Ph.D., and Frauke Musial, Ph.D.

Note: Copies of RSNA 2010 news releases and electronic images will be available online at RSNA.org/press10 beginning Monday, Nov. 29.

RSNA is an association of more than 46,000 radiologists, radiation oncologists, medical physicists and related scientists committed to excellence in patient care through education and research. The Society is based in Oak Brook, Ill. (RSNA.org)

Editor’s note: The data in these releases may differ from those in the published abstract and those actually presented at the meeting, as researchers continue to update their data right up until the meeting. To ensure you are using the most up-to-date information, please call the RSNA Newsroom at 1-312-949-3233.

For patient-friendly information on fMRI, visit RadiologyInfo.org.

November 30, 2010 - Posted by | Health News Items | ,

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