Acupuncture stimulates brain metabolism in dementia patients

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June 25, 2007  
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acupuncture, dementiaCM NEWS – Needling specific acupoints may help patients with dementia, a recently published study shows. The acupoint combo seems to increase cerebral glucose metabolism in the brain, as indicated by cerebral functional imaging.

The study has been published in the January 2007 issue of the Journal of Acupuncture and Tuina Science. Chinese researchers observed the effects of needling three acupoints – Baihui (??, Hundred Convergences; GV 20), Shuigou (??, Water Trough; GV 26) and Shenmen (??, Spirit Gate; HT 7) – and their effects on cerebral glucose metabolism in patients with vascular dementia.

25 patients with vascular dementia were divided into 5 groups (Group A, B, C, D and E) randomly. Patients in the Group A were treated by needling routine acupoints for hemiplegia (paralysis in the vertical half of a patient’s body), which are acupoints of the three “yang meridians” of the hand and foot.

In addition to the “routine acupoints”, Group B patients received acupuncture to Baihui (GV 20); Group C to Shuigou (GV 26), Group D to Shenmen (HT 7), and Group E to Baihui (GV 20), Shuigou (GV 26), and Shenmen (HT 7).

All the patients were examined by Positron Emission Tomography (PET) to detect cerebral glucose metabolism in the bilateral frontal lobes (orbital gyri), parietal lobes, temporal lobes (hippocampus and hippocampal gyrus), occipital lobes, thalamus, lentiform nucleus, caudate nuclei, cingulate gyms and cerebellum before treatments and after treatments.

Why checking on cerebral glucose metabolism? Studies have linked dementia with the slowing of glucose metabolism in certain parts of the brain. One study indicated that patients with frontotemporal dementia not only showed significant metabolic deficits primarily in frontal cortical areas, but also in the caudate nuclei and the thalami. These findings demonstrate that the clinical progression in patients with frontotemporal dementia is accompanied by a region-specific decline in cerebral glucose metabolism.

Another study found that patients with multi-infarct dementia (MID) had significantly lower glucose metabolism in all the grey matter regions measured and were also characterized by more individuality in metabolic pattern.

The present study shows that after needling the routine acupoints for hemiplegia, glucose metabolism increased in lentiform nucleus and temporal lobe; and:

  • patients with Baihui (GV 20) needled showed increased glucose metabolism in the frontal lobe, temporal lobe and lentiform nucleus.
  • patients with Shuigou (GV 26) needled showed increased glucose metabolism in the frontal lobe, thalamus and lentiform nucleus;
  • patients with Shenmen (HT 7) needled got more glucose metabolism in the parietal lobe and lentiform nucleus;
  • patients who recieved needling to all these three acupoints has higher glucose metabolism in the frontal lobe, temporal lobe, thalamus and lentiform nucleus.

The results suggest that needling Baihui (GV 20), Shuigou (GV 26) and Shenmen (HT 7) affect glucose metabolism in different functional regions of the brain. In other words, the three acupoints are closely correlated to different functional regions of the brain.

[Journal of Acupuncture and Tuina Science :2007. 01]