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Acupuncture Modulation of Neural Transmitters/Modulators

  • Jianfeng Liang
  • Ying XiaEmail author
Chapter

Abstract

Acupuncture has historically been in clinical practice in China since a long time and today has spread to many other parts of the world as well. Accumulating evidence shows that manual acupuncture (MA) and electroacupuncture (EA) induce therapeutic effects on multiple disorders that have been demonstrated not only by the Oriental clinicians but also by Western medical community. A large body of literature shows that acupuncture affects the central nervous system (CNS) through regulation of neurotransmitters in terms of their synthesis, release, uptake, and degradation, suggesting an involvement of neurotransmitters in acupuncture therapy. In this chapter, we will update on these vantage points in view of the recent studies on acupuncture effects on neural transmitters/modulators. Besides technical development (e.g., fMRI and PET for measuring endogenous opioid concentrations in the brain), recent evidence suggests that (1) acupuncture can induce dual-directional regulation of endogenous opioids, monoamine substance P, and other transmitters/modulators, depending on acupuncture condition and body status (e.g., normal vs. disease); (2) acupuncture can increase the mRNA expression of brain-derived neurotrophic factor and enhance the expression of neurotrophic factor (NTF) receptors; (3) acupuncture downregulates the nitric oxide (NO) level in the CNS and elevates the NO content in plasma and certain organs; (4) EA can suppress the activation of acetylcholinesterase to attenuate acetylcholine degradation; (5) EA has a better effect on enhancing 5-HT mRNA expression than MA; (6) MA and EA have differential effects on different subtypes of glutamate receptors, leading to decreased expression of N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) receptor and increased expression of AMPA receptor; and (7) EA increases the concentration of prostaglandins in plasma in some diseased states. These studies show that acupuncture induces comprehensive effects on transmitters/modulators in the CNS, and the outcome can be dual-directional depending on acupuncture approach and the body status.

Keywords

Endogenous opioid peptides 5-Hydroxytryptamine Noradrenaline Dopamine Acetylcholine Amino acids Substance P Prostaglandin Cholecystokinin octapeptide-8 Neurotrophic factor Nitric oxide 

Notes

Acknowledgments

This work was supported by the National Institutes of Health (AT-004422 and HD-034852) and the Vivian L. Smith Neurologic Foundation.

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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of NeurosurgeryThe University of Texas Medical School at HoustonHoustonUSA
  2. 2.Yale University School of MedicineNew HavenUSA
  3. 3.The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at HoustonHoustonUSA

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