Electrophysiological correlates of acupuncture on EEG and autonomic activity

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NO FULL TEXT AVAILABLE. Access is restricted indefinitely. ----- Introduction: Recent research has highlighted the need for a greater understanding of the mechanisms of acupuncture. The current literature provides some evidence for the physiological effects of acupuncture, however results have been inconsistent and inconclusive. Objective: To test the hypothesis that the acupuncture points HT7 and ST36 induce relaxation and excitation effects, respectively, as measured by EEG and autonomic activity (measured by heart rate, heart rate variability, skin conductance and skin temperature). Methods: Seventy-five participants (41 female, 33 male; mean age 28.2, SD 7.8) were randomly allocated to receive acupuncture to HT7 (n=25) or ST36 (n=25), or to a time control group (n=25). Participants were involved in a single testing session where physiological data were recorded for approximately 20 minutes. Electrodes for recording of EEG data were placed onto the scalp using an electrode cap, and electrodes for recording heart rate, skin conductance and skin temperature were placed on the fingers and inner forearm. Data were recorded for five minutes with eyes open (EO) and one minute with eyes closed (EC), before, during and after acupuncture needle insertion. EEG data were not available for one subject in the HT7 group, reducing the number in that group to 24. Results: Acupuncture to HT7 did not result in any consistent significant relaxation effects as measured by EEG, nor did ST36 result in an excitation response in brain activity. Some small but insignificant changes were detected, suggesting that if acupuncture does result in changes in brain activity, the effects are more site specific and subtler. Acupuncture to ST36 resulted in a decrease in heart rate (p<0.05), however no changes were noted in the other study groups. Acupuncture to both acupuncture points resulted in an increase in skin conductance measured at the hands (p<0.05), while no change in skin temperature was noted. Conclusions: The results of this doctoral thesis did not produce any conclusive evidence to suggest that acupuncture to HT7 or ST36 results in point specific physiological changes. Further research in this area is warranted.
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