Specific acupuncture sensation correlates with EEGs and autonomic changes in human subjects.Auton Neurosci 2007; 133(2):158-69AN
Sympathetic overactivation is suggested to be associated with chronic pain syndrome, and acupuncture is frequently applied in therapy for this syndrome. Furthermore, the forebrain including the various cerebral cortices has been implicated in inhibitory and facilitatory control of pain as well as autonomic functions. We investigated relationships among specific sensations induced by acupuncture manipulation, effects on sympathetic and parasympathetic autonomic functions, and EEG changes. An acupuncture needle was inserted into the right trapezius muscle of the subjects, and acupuncture manipulation was repeated to induce specific acupuncture sensation repeatedly while the needle was left in the muscle. Acupuncture manipulation significantly decreased heart rate (HR), and increased systolic blood pressure (SBP). Spectral analysis indicated that acupuncture manipulation significantly decreased low frequency components (LF) of both HR variability (HRV) and SBP variability (SBPV), and significantly reduced ratio of LF to high frequency component (HF) of HRV (LF/HF, index of sympathetic activity). Furthermore, there was a significant negative correlation between changes in LF/HF ratio of HRV and the number of specific acupuncture sensations reported, and a significant positive correlation between HF of HRV and the number of acupuncture sensations. Analyses of EEG data indicated that acupuncture manipulation non-specifically increased power of all spectral bands except the gamma band. Furthermore, changes in HF (index of parasympathetic activity) and total power (overall activity of the autonomic nervous system) of HRV were positively correlated with changes in theta, alpha, and gamma power, while changes in LF of SBPV and LF/HF of HRV were negatively correlated with changes in power of all spectral bands. These results are consistent with the suggestion that autonomic changes induced by manipulation inducing specific acupuncture sensations might be mediated through the central nervous system, especially through the forebrain as shown in EEG changes, and are beneficial to relieve chronic pain by inhibiting sympathetic nervous activity.