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Electro-Acupuncture & Depression

J Altern Complement Med. 2013 Sep;19(9):733-9. doi: 10.1089/acm.2011.0637. Epub 2013 May 6.

Effects of electroacupuncture on depression and the production of glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor compared with fluoxetine: a randomized controlled pilot study.

Author information

  • 11 Department of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Peking Union Medical College Hospital , Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences and Peking Union Medical College, Beijing, China .



Postmortem studies indicate that the number and density of glial cells are reduced in different brain regions of patients with depression. Glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF) plays an important role in the pathogenesis of depressive disorder (DD) and might be a biomarker for damage to nerve cells. In this study, we compared the therapeutic effects of electroacupuncture (EA) and fluoxetine, a serotonin reuptake inhibitor, on DD patients, focusing on the serum level of GDNF.


This was a prospective, randomized clinical trial.


Seventy-five patients with DD from the Department of Acupuncture, Beijing Hospital of Traditional Chinese Medicine, were recruited.


Twenty patients were treated with acupuncture for 6 weeks on the acupoints of Baihui (DU20) and Zusanli (ST36). Sixteen patients were treated with acupuncture for 6 weeks on the acupoints of Taichong (LR3), Sanyinjiao (SP6), Neiguan (PC6), and Shenmen (HT7), and constituted the electroacupuncture control group. The patients received acupuncture treatment five times per week. Twenty-five patients were treated with oral fluoxetine (20 mg/day) for 6 weeks.


All subjects were evaluated by the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale at four time points (0 [baseline], 2, 4, and 6 weeks after treatment). Serum GDNF was quantified in duplicate by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA).


EA and fluoxetine had similar curative effects on DD patients. EA had a faster onset of action, better response rate, and better improvement rate than fluoxetine. Both fluoxetine and EA treatment restored the normal concentration of GDNF in the serum of DD patients.


EA treatment for depression is as effective as a recommended dose of fluoxetine. However, EA demonstrates an advantage in the regulation of the production of GDNF compared with fluoxetine.

PMID: 23647408  [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]   PMCID:  PMC3768227 

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Electro-Acup & Depression

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