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Effect of acupuncture in mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer disease: a functional MRI study


Wang, Z., Nie, B., Li, D., Zhao, Z., Han, Y., Song, H., Xu, J., Shan, B., Lu, J., Li, K.


Plos One, Volume: 7, No.: 8, Pages.: e42730

Year of Publication



We aim to clarify the mechanisms of acupuncture in treating mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and Alzheimer disease (AD) by using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Thirty-six right-handed subjects (8 MCI patients, 14 AD patients, and 14 healthy elders) participated in this study. Clinical and neuropsychological examinations were performed on all the subjects. MRI data acquisition was performed on a SIEMENS verio 3-Tesla scanner. The fMRI study used a single block experimental design. We first acquired the baseline resting state data in the initial 3 minutes; we then acquired the fMRI data during the procession of acupuncture stimulation on the acupoints of Tai chong and Hegu for the following 3 minutes. Last, we acquired fMRI data for another 10 minutes after the needle was withdrawn. The preprocessing and data analysis were performed using the statistical parametric mapping (SPM8) software. Then the two-sample t-tests were performed between each two groups of different states. We found that during the resting state, brain activities in AD and MCI patients were different from those of control subjects. During the acupuncture and the second resting state after acupuncture, when comparing to resting state, there are several regions showing increased or decreased activities in MCI, AD subjects compared to normal subjects. Most of the regions were involved in the temporal lobe and the frontal lobe, which were closely related to the memory and cognition. In conclusion, we investigated the effect of acupuncture in AD and MCI patients by combing fMRI and traditional acupuncture. Our fMRI study confirmed that acupuncture at Tai chong (Liv3) and He gu (LI4) can activate certain cognitive-related regions in AD and MCI patients.

Bibtex Citation

@article{Wang_2012, doi = {10.1371/journal.pone.0042730}, url = {}, year = 2012, month = {aug}, publisher = {Public Library of Science ({PLoS})}, volume = {7}, number = {8}, pages = {e42730}, author = {Zhiqun Wang and Binbin Nie and Donghong Li and Zhilian Zhao and Ying Han and Haiqing Song and Jianyang Xu and Baoci Shan and Jie Lu and Kuncheng Li}, editor = {Xi-Nian Zuo}, title = {Effect of Acupuncture in Mild Cognitive Impairment and Alzheimer Disease: A Functional {MRI} Study}, journal = {{PLoS} {ONE}} }


activity, acupuncture, alzheimer disease, brain, cognition disorders, humans, magnetic resonance imaging, neuropsychological tests, therapy

Countries of Study


Types of Dementia

Dementia (general / unspecified), Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI)

Types of Study

Non randomised controlled trial

Type of Outcomes


Type of Interventions

Non-pharmacological Treatment

Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions

Complementary therapies