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Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Volume 2012 (2012), Article ID 786839, 6 pages
http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2012/786839
Review Article

Auricular Acupuncture and Vagal Regulation

Institute of Acupuncture and Moxibustion, China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences, Beijing 100700, China

Received 30 September 2012; Accepted 2 November 2012

Academic Editor: Di Zhang

Copyright © 2012 Wei He et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Abstract

Auricular acupuncture has been utilized in the treatment of diseases for thousands of years. Dr. Paul Nogier firstly originated the concept of an inverted fetus map on the external ear. In the present study, the relationship between the auricular acupuncture and the vagal regulation has been reviewed. It has been shown that auricular acupuncture plays a role in vagal activity of autonomic functions of cardiovascular, respiratory, and gastrointestinal systems. Mechanism studies suggested that afferent projections from especially the auricular branch of the vagus nerve (ABVN) to the nucleus of the solitary tract (NTS) form the anatomical basis for the vagal regulation of auricular acupuncture. Therefore, we proposed the “auriculovagal afferent pathway” (AVAP): both the autonomic and the central nervous system could be modified by auricular vagal stimulation via projections from the ABVN to the NTS. Auricular acupuncture is also proposed to prevent neurodegenerative diseases via vagal regulation. There is a controversy on the specificity and the efficacy of auricular acupoints for treating diseases. More clinical RCT trials on auricular acupuncture and experimental studies on the mechanism of auricular acupuncture should be further investigated.