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FMRI connectivity analysis of acupuncture effects on the whole brain network in mild cognitive impairment patients


Feng, Yuanyuan, Bai, Lijun, Ren, Yanshuang, Chen, Shangjie, Wang, Hu, Zhang, Wensheng, Tian, Jie


Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Volume: 30, No.: 5, Pages.: 672-682

Year of Publication



The increased risk for the elderly with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) to progress to Alzheimer’s disease makes it an appropriate condition for investigation. While the use of acupuncture as a complementary therapeutic method for treating MCI is popular in certain parts of the world, the underlying mechanism is still elusive. We sought to investigate the acupuncture effects on the functional connectivity throughout the entire brain in MCI patients compared to healthy controls (HC). The functional magnetic resonance imaging experiment was performed with two different paradigms, namely, deep acupuncture (DA) and superficial acupuncture (SA), at acupoint KI3. We first identified regions showing abnormal functional connectivity in the MCI group compared to HC during the resting state and subsequently tested whether these regions could be modulated by acupuncture. Then, we made the comparison of MCI vs. HC to test whether there were any specific modulatory patterns in the poststimulus resting brain between the two groups. Finally, we made the comparisons of DA vs. SA in each group to test the effect of acupuncture with different needling depths. We found the temporal regions (hippocampus, thalamus, fusiform gyrus) showing abnormal functional connectivity during the resting state. These regions are implicated in memory encoding and retrieving. Furthermore, we found significant changes in functional connectivity related with the abnormal regions in MCI patients following acupuncture. Compared to HC, the correlations related with the temporal regions were enhanced in the poststimulus resting brain in MCI patients. Compared to SA, significantly increased correlations related with the temporal regions were found for the DA condition. The enhanced correlations in the memory-related brain regions following acupuncture may be related to the purported therapeutically beneficial effects of acupuncture for the treatment of MCI. The heterogeneous modulatory patterns between DA and SA may suggest that deep muscle insertion of acupuncture is necessary to achieve the appreciable clinical effect.; Copyright © 2012 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Bibtex Citation

@article{Feng_2012, doi = {10.1016/j.mri.2012.01.003}, url = {}, year = 2012, month = {jun}, publisher = {Elsevier {BV}}, volume = {30}, number = {5}, pages = {672--682}, author = {Yuanyuan Feng and Lijun Bai and Yanshuang Ren and Shangjie Chen and Hu Wang and Wensheng Zhang and Jie Tian}, title = {{FMRI} connectivity analysis of acupuncture effects on the whole brain network in mild cognitive impairment patients}, journal = {Magnetic Resonance Imaging} }


acupuncture, acupuncture therapy, brain, cognition disorders, connectivity, diagnosis, female, functional, humans, magnetic resonance imaging, male, methods, middle aged, nerve net, physiopathology, therapy, treatment outcome

Countries of Study


Types of Dementia

Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI)

Types of Study

Cohort Study

Type of Outcomes


Type of Interventions

Non-pharmacological Treatment

Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions

Complementary therapies