Acupuncture Changes How The Brain Perceives Pain

The most common question asked about acupuncture is, “How does it work?” A close second is, “Is it all in your head (is it a placebo effect?)” A new study gets close to answering those questions. Researchers at the University Hospital in Essen, Germany, and their colleagues at University of Duisburg-Essen were able to locate the areas of the brain that are activated by acupuncture.  Using fMRIs (functional magnetic resonance imaging) before and after needles were inserted into the ankles of volunteers, the researchers found that areas of the brain corresponding to ankle pain were quieted during acupuncture.  Their
conclusion:  needles actually do cause a change in the way that the brain perceives and processes pain.

The study was small, using only 18 volunteers but it helped to clarify how and where the brain processes pain.  What’s most exciting, says Brant-Zawadzki, an adjunct professor of radiology at Stanford University, commenting on the study, is that the brain regions identified may lead researchers to find a more standardized approach to treating pain that may help more sufferers.

They acknowledge that it is too soon to draw conclusions but they are willing to admit, “ that brain activity in all regions of interest was lessened under acupuncture.”

*This article was first published on Technorati

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