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Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Volume 2017 (2017), Article ID 9785345, 8 pages
Review Article

The Modulatory Effect of Acupuncture on the Activity of Locus Coeruleus Neuronal Cells: A Review

Department of Physiology, College of Korean Medicine, Kyung Hee University, Seoul 02447, Republic of Korea

Correspondence should be addressed to Woojin Kim

Received 27 July 2017; Accepted 17 September 2017; Published 18 October 2017

Academic Editor: Gabino Garrido

Copyright © 2017 Gihyun Lee and Woojin Kim. 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.


The Locus Coeruleus (LC) is a small collection of noradrenergic neurons located in the pons. In the brain, noradrenaline (NE) is primarily produced by noradrenergic cell groups in the LC, which is the largest group of noradrenergic neurons in the central nervous system. Acupuncture, including the electroacupuncture which is a modified acupuncture method, is known to be effective in various kinds of diseases, and the involvement of noradrenergic system in the central nervous system has been reported by previous studies. However, on whether acupuncture can modulate the LC neuronal cells activities, results vary from studies to studies. In this paper, we included twelve articles, which observed the effect of acupuncture on the activities of LC in humans and animals. Our study shows that, among twelve included studies, six reported decrease of LC activities, whereas six showed increase of LC activities after acupuncture treatment. Although it is difficult to draw a firm conclusion, the authors suggest that the difference of frequencies may play an important role in the modulatory effect of acupuncture on LC. Further studies are needed to clarify the precise mechanism of acupuncture on LC, as it can lead to a new therapeutic method for various LC-NE related diseases.