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      The low-frequency BOLD signal oscillation response in the insular associated to immediate analgesia of ankle acupuncture in patients with chronic low back pain

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          The present study evaluated the modulation effect of a painless acupuncture technique, ankle acupuncture (AA), on resting-state functional change in patients with chronic low back pain (CLBP).

          Patients and methods

          Fourteen participants diagnosed with CLBP received AA and underwent one brain functional image scan after tactile stimulation and another one following the insertion of the needle. The needling sensations and clinical pain intensities were evaluated after the end of each functional image scan. The significance levels of Visual Analog Scales/Scores (VASs) before and after acupuncture were determined using paired t-test. The brain areas showing differences in the amplitude of low-frequency fluctuation (ALFF) and fractional ALFF (fALFF) between the two scans were identified. We also explored the relationship between mean ALFF values in brain areas identified and VAS scores based on Pearson correlation coefficient.


          A complete-case analysis was performed on 12 participants. Neither different needling sensations nor any local sensations during the two scans was found. The clinical findings indicated that the scores of VAS scores were significantly lower after AA intervention ( P<0.001). Compared with those after tactile stimulation, ALFF decreased in the left insular and increased in the left precuneus and right precentral gyrus, and fALFF decreased in the left insular, during retaining of AA (corrected). Moreover, there was a positive correlation found between mean ALFF change in the left insular and that of VAS values ( P<0.05).


          The present study demonstrated the low-frequency BOLD signal oscillation response in the left insular in brain activity was associated with an immediate analgesia of AA in patients with CLBP, which provides new insights into intrinsic connections between low-frequency brain signals and analgesic effects of acupuncture.

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          Most cited references 34

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          Altered baseline brain activity in children with ADHD revealed by resting-state functional MRI.

          In children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), functional neuroimaging studies have revealed abnormalities in various brain regions, including prefrontal-striatal circuit, cerebellum, and brainstem. In the current study, we used a new marker of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), amplitude of low-frequency (0.01-0.08Hz) fluctuation (ALFF) to investigate the baseline brain function of this disorder. Thirteen boys with ADHD (13.0+/-1.4 years) were examined by resting-state fMRI and compared with age-matched controls. As a result, we found that patients with ADHD had decreased ALFF in the right inferior frontal cortex, [corrected] and bilateral cerebellum and the vermis as well as increased ALFF in the right anterior cingulated cortex, left sensorimotor cortex, and bilateral brainstem. This resting-state fMRI study suggests that the changed spontaneous neuronal activity of these regions may be implicated in the underlying pathophysiology in children with ADHD.
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            Neural mechanism underlying acupuncture analgesia.

             Zhi-Qi Zhao (2008)
            Acupuncture has been accepted to effectively treat chronic pain by inserting needles into the specific "acupuncture points" (acupoints) on the patient's body. During the last decades, our understanding of how the brain processes acupuncture analgesia has undergone considerable development. Acupuncture analgesia is manifested only when the intricate feeling (soreness, numbness, heaviness and distension) of acupuncture in patients occurs following acupuncture manipulation. Manual acupuncture (MA) is the insertion of an acupuncture needle into acupoint followed by the twisting of the needle up and down by hand. In MA, all types of afferent fibers (Abeta, Adelta and C) are activated. In electrical acupuncture (EA), a stimulating current via the inserted needle is delivered to acupoints. Electrical current intense enough to excite Abeta- and part of Adelta-fibers can induce an analgesic effect. Acupuncture signals ascend mainly through the spinal ventrolateral funiculus to the brain. Many brain nuclei composing a complicated network are involved in processing acupuncture analgesia, including the nucleus raphe magnus (NRM), periaqueductal grey (PAG), locus coeruleus, arcuate nucleus (Arc), preoptic area, nucleus submedius, habenular nucleus, accumbens nucleus, caudate nucleus, septal area, amygdale, etc. Acupuncture analgesia is essentially a manifestation of integrative processes at different levels in the CNS between afferent impulses from pain regions and impulses from acupoints. In the last decade, profound studies on neural mechanisms underlying acupuncture analgesia predominately focus on cellular and molecular substrate and functional brain imaging and have developed rapidly. Diverse signal molecules contribute to mediating acupuncture analgesia, such as opioid peptides (mu-, delta- and kappa-receptors), glutamate (NMDA and AMPA/KA receptors), 5-hydroxytryptamine, and cholecystokinin octapeptide. Among these, the opioid peptides and their receptors in Arc-PAG-NRM-spinal dorsal horn pathway play a pivotal role in mediating acupuncture analgesia. The release of opioid peptides evoked by electroacupuncture is frequency-dependent. EA at 2 and 100Hz produces release of enkephalin and dynorphin in the spinal cord, respectively. CCK-8 antagonizes acupuncture analgesia. The individual differences of acupuncture analgesia are associated with inherited genetic factors and the density of CCK receptors. The brain regions associated with acupuncture analgesia identified in animal experiments were confirmed and further explored in the human brain by means of functional imaging. EA analgesia is likely associated with its counter-regulation to spinal glial activation. PTX-sesntive Gi/o protein- and MAP kinase-mediated signal pathways as well as the downstream events NF-kappaB, c-fos and c-jun play important roles in EA analgesia.
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              Chronic back pain is associated with decreased prefrontal and thalamic gray matter density.

              The role of the brain in chronic pain conditions remains speculative. We compared brain morphology of 26 chronic back pain (CBP) patients to matched control subjects, using magnetic resonance imaging brain scan data and automated analysis techniques. CBP patients were divided into neuropathic, exhibiting pain because of sciatic nerve damage, and non-neuropathic groups. Pain-related characteristics were correlated to morphometric measures. Neocortical gray matter volume was compared after skull normalization. Patients with CBP showed 5-11% less neocortical gray matter volume than control subjects. The magnitude of this decrease is equivalent to the gray matter volume lost in 10-20 years of normal aging. The decreased volume was related to pain duration, indicating a 1.3 cm3 loss of gray matter for every year of chronic pain. Regional gray matter density in 17 CBP patients was compared with matched controls using voxel-based morphometry and nonparametric statistics. Gray matter density was reduced in bilateral dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and right thalamus and was strongly related to pain characteristics in a pattern distinct for neuropathic and non-neuropathic CBP. Our results imply that CBP is accompanied by brain atrophy and suggest that the pathophysiology of chronic pain includes thalamocortical processes.

                Author and article information

                J Pain Res
                J Pain Res
                Journal of Pain Research
                Journal of Pain Research
                Dove Medical Press
                28 February 2019
                : 12
                : 841-850
                [1 ]School of Acupuncture-Moxibustion and Tuina, Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Shanghai, China, lskingcn@ 123456hotmail.com
                [2 ]Department of Psychiatry, the Second Affiliated Hospital of Zhejiang University School of Medicine, Zhejiang, China
                [3 ]Center for Cognition and Brain Disorders, Institutes of Psychological Sciences, Hangzhou Normal University, Zhejiang, China
                [4 ]Zhejiang Key Laboratory for Research in Assessment of Cognitive Impairments, Zhejiang, China
                [5 ]School of Information and Electronics Technology, Jiamusi University, Heilongjiang, China
                [6 ]Integrated Medical Research School, Jiamusi University, Heilongjiang, China
                [7 ]Department of Sports Rehabilitation, Hangzhou Red Cross Hospital, Zhejiang, China, 550825165@ 123456qq.com
                Author notes
                Correspondence: Sheng Liu, School of Acupuncture-Moxibustion and Tuina, Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, 1200 Cailun Rd, Shanghai 200032, China, Tel +86 21 5132 2358, Email lskingcn@ 123456hotmail.com
                Jun Rong, Department of Sports Rehabilitation, Hangzhou Red Cross Hospital, 208 East Huancheng Rd, Zhejiang, 310003, China, Tel +86 571 5610 9713, Email 550825165@ 123456qq.com

                These authors contributed equally to this work

                © 2019 Xiang et al. This work is published and licensed by Dove Medical Press Limited

                The full terms of this license are available at https://www.dovepress.com/terms.php and incorporate the Creative Commons Attribution - Non Commercial (unported, v3.0) License ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/). By accessing the work you hereby accept the Terms. Non-commercial uses of the work are permitted without any further permission from Dove Medical Press Limited, provided the work is properly attributed.

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