Brain Network Response to Acupuncture Stimuli in Experimental Acute Low Back Pain: An fMRI Study.
Most neuroimaging studies have demonstrated that acupuncture can significantly modulate brain activation patterns in healthy subjects, while only a few studies have examined clinical pain. In the current study, we combined an experimental acute low back pain (ALBP) model and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to explore the neural mechanisms of acupuncture analgesia. All ALBP subjects first underwent two resting state fMRI scans at baseline and during a painful episode and then underwent two additional fMRI scans, once during acupuncture stimulation (ACUP) and once during tactile stimulation (SHAM) pseudorandomly, at the BL40 acupoint. Our results showed that, compared with the baseline, the pain state had higher regional homogeneity (ReHo) values in the pain matrix, limbic system, and default mode network (DMN) and lower ReHo values in frontal gyrus and temporal gyrus; compared with the OFF status, ACUP yielded broad deactivation in subjects, including nearly all of the limbic system, pain status, and DMN, and also evoked numerous activations in the attentional and somatosensory systems; compared with SHAM, we found that ACUP induced more deactivations and fewer activations in the subjects. Multiple brain networks play crucial roles in acupuncture analgesia, suggesting that ACUP exceeds a somatosensory-guided mind-body therapy for ALBP.