Parsing brain activity associated with acupuncture treatment in Parkinson’s diseases

Movement Disorders

Volume 24, Issue 12, pages 1794–1802, 15 September 2009

Parsing brain activity associated with acupuncture treatment in Parkinson’s diseases

  1. Younbyoung Chae KMD, PhD1,
  2. Hyejung Lee KMD, PhD1,
  3. Hackjin Kim PhD2,
  4. Chang-Hwan Kim KMD, PhD3,
  5. Dae-Il Chang MD, PhD4,
  6. Kyung-Mi Kim KMD, MS1 and
  7. Hi-Joon Park KMD, PhD1,*

Article first published online: 16 JUN 2009

DOI: 10.1002/mds.22673


Acupuncture, a common treatment modality within complementary and alternative medicine, has been widely used for Parkinson’s disease (PD). Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), we explored the neural mechanisms underlying the effect of specific and genuine acupuncture treatment on the motor function in patients with PD.

Three fMRI scans were performed in random order in a block design, one for verum acupuncture (VA) treatment, another one for a covert placebo (CP), and the third one for an overt placebo (OP) at the motor function implicated acupoint GB34 on the left foot of 10 patients with PD. We calculated the contrast that subtracts the blood-oxygen-level dependent (BOLD) response for the acupuncture effect (VA vs. CP) and the placebo effect (CP vs. OP).

We found a significant improvement in the motor function of the affected hand after acupuncture treatment. The putamen and the primary motor cortex were activated when patients with PD received the acupuncture treatment (VA vs. CP) and these activations correlated with individual enhanced motor function. Expectation towards acupuncture modality (CP vs. OP) elicited activation over the anterior cingulate gyrus, the superior frontal gyrus, and the superior temporal gyrus. These findings suggest that acupuncture treatment might facilitate improvement in the motor functioning of patients with PD via the basal ganglia-thalamocortical circuit.

© 2009 Movement Disorder Society

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