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Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Volume 2012 (2012), Article ID 632838, 8 pages
Research Article

Electrical Potential of Acupuncture Points: Use of a Noncontact Scanning Kelvin Probe

1Osher Center for Integrative Medicine, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, 900 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, MA 02215, USA
2School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and East Asian Programs, Harvard University, Harvard Yard, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA
3KP Technology Ltd., Wick KW1 5LE, UK
4Department of Physics, University of Oslo, 0316 Oslo, Norway
5Department of Biomedical and Clinical Engineering, Rikshospitalet University Hospital, Oslo University Hospital, 0027 Oslo, Norway
6Departments of Dermatology & Ophthalmology, Research Institute for Regenerative Cures, UC Davis School of Medicine, 2921 Stockton Boulevard, Sacramento, CA 95817, USA
7School of Medical Sciences, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen AB25 2ZD, UK
8Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging, Department of Radiology, Massachusetts General Hospital, 149 Thirteenth Street, Charlestown, MA 02129, USA
9Division of General Medicine & Primary Care, Department of Medicine, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, 330 Brookline Avenue, Boston, MA 02215, USA

Received 20 September 2012; Revised 1 November 2012; Accepted 4 November 2012

Academic Editor: Wolfgang Schwarz

Copyright © 2012 Brian J. Gow 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.


Objective. Acupuncture points are reportedly distinguishable by their electrical properties. However, confounders arising from skin-to-electrode contact used in traditional electrodermal methods have contributed to controversies over this claim. The Scanning Kelvin Probe is a state-of-the-art device that measures electrical potential without actually touching the skin and is thus capable of overcoming these confounding effects. In this study, we evaluated the electrical potential profiles of acupoints LI-4 and PC-6 and their adjacent controls. We hypothesize that acupuncture point sites are associated with increased variability in potential compared to adjacent control sites. Methods. Twelve healthy individuals were recruited for this study. Acupuncture points LI-4 and PC-6 and their adjacent controls were assessed. A 2 mm probe tip was placed over the predetermined skin site and adjusted to a tip-to-sample distance of 1.0 mm under tip oscillation settings of 62.4 Hz frequency. A surface potential scan spanning a 1.0 cm × 1.0 cm area was obtained. Results. At both the PC-6 and LI-4 sites, no significant differences in mean potential were observed compared to their respective controls (Wilcoxon rank-sum test, and 0.79, resp.). However, the LI-4 site was associated with significant increase in variability compared to its control as denoted by standard deviation and range ( and 0.0005, resp.). At the PC-6 site, no statistical differences in variability were observed. Conclusion. Acupuncture points may be associated with increased variability in electrical potential.