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Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Volume 2018, Article ID 7619197, 10 pages
Research Article

Neuronal Specificity of Acupuncture in Alzheimer’s Disease and Mild Cognitive Impairment Patients: A Functional MRI Study

1Department of Radiology, Xuanwu Hospital, Capital Medical University, Beijing, China
2Key Laboratory of Magnetic Resonance Imaging and Brain Informatics, Beijing, China
3Department of Nuclear Medicine, Xuanwu Hospital, Capital Medical University, Beijing, China
4Department of Radiology, Dongfang Hospital, Beijing University of Chinese Medicine, Beijing, China
5Department of Integrated TCM and Western Medicine, General Hospital of Chinese People’s Armed Police Forces, Beijing, China
6Department of TCM, Shenzhen University General Hospital, Shenzhen, China
7Department of Neurology, Xuanwu Hospital, Capital Medical University, Beijing, China

Correspondence should be addressed to Jie Lu; moc.liamtoh@ulgnigami

Received 27 March 2018; Accepted 2 July 2018; Published 17 July 2018

Academic Editor: George B. Lenon

Copyright © 2018 Yi Shan 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.


Although acupuncture is considered to be effective and safe for Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and mild cognitive impairment (MCI), the mechanism underlying its therapeutic effect is still unknown. Most studies clarifying the neuronal pathway produced by acupuncture were still applied to healthy subjects with limited single acupuncture point stimulation, which was inconsistency with clinical practice. Thus, in our present study, we investigate the differences between brain activity changes in AD and MCI patients caused by multi-acupuncture point Siguan (four gates), in order to provide visualized evidence for neuronal specificity of clinical acupuncture. Forty-nine subjects were recruited, including 21 AD patients, 14 MCI patients, and 14 healthy controls (HC). AD and MCI patients were randomly divided into two groups, respectively: real acupuncture point group (14 AD and 8 MCI) and sham acupuncture point group (7 AD and 6 MCI). We adopted a 16-minute, single-block, experimental design for acquiring functional MRI images. We found, in AD and MCI patients, Siguan (four gates) elicited extensive activations and deactivations in cognitive-related areas, visual-related areas, the sensorimotor-related area, basal ganglia, and cerebellum. Compared with HC, AD and MCI patients showed similar activations in cognitive-related brain areas (inferior frontal gyrus, supramarginal gyrus, and rolandic operculum) as well as deactivations in cognitive-related areas, visual-related areas, basal ganglia, and cerebellum, which were not found in HC. Compared with sham acupuncture points, real acupuncture points produced more specific brain changes with both activated and deactivated brain activities in AD and MCI. The preliminary results in our study verified the objective evidence for neuronal specificity of acupuncture in AD and MCI patients.