Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine (Jan 2013)

Acupuncture Effect and Central Autonomic Regulation

  • Qian-Qian Li,
  • Guang-Xia Shi,
  • Qian Xu,
  • Jing Wang,
  • Cun-Zhi Liu,
  • Lin-Peng Wang

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 2013


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Acupuncture is a therapeutic technique and part of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). Acupuncture has clinical efficacy on various autonomic nerve-related disorders, such as cardiovascular diseases, epilepsy, anxiety and nervousness, circadian rhythm disorders, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and subfertility. An increasing number of studies have demonstrated that acupuncture can control autonomic nerve system (ANS) functions including blood pressure, pupil size, skin conductance, skin temperature, muscle sympathetic nerve activities, heart rate and/or pulse rate, and heart rate variability. Emerging evidence indicates that acupuncture treatment not only activates distinct brain regions in different kinds of diseases caused by imbalance between the sympathetic and parasympathetic activities, but also modulates adaptive neurotransmitter in related brain regions to alleviate autonomic response. This review focused on the central mechanism of acupuncture in modulating various autonomic responses, which might provide neurobiological foundations for acupuncture effects.