Effects of Acupuncture on Anxiety Levels and Prefrontal Cortex Activity Measured by Near-Infrared Spectroscopy: A Pilot Study
There is increasing evidence that acupuncture is useful in treating somatic and psychological disorders caused by stress; however, the physiological basis of the effect remains unclear. In the present study, we evaluated the effect of acupuncture on psychological conditions (i.e., anxiety) and prefrontal cortex (PFC) activity. We studied 10 patients with anxiety disorders and measured anxiety levels by means of the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI), including state anxiety (STAI-1) and trait anxiety (STAI-2). Employing a two-channel NIRS device, we measured oxy-Hb concentration in the bilateral PFC at rest, and evaluated asymmetry of the PFC activity by calculating the Laterality Index at Rest (LIR). The patients were treated by acupuncture at Yui Clinic in Osaka. The treatment significantly decreased the STAI-1 score (p < 0.001), but not the STAI-2 score (p > 0.05). The NIRS measurements indicated the presence of spontaneous oscillations of oxy-Hb in the bilateral PFC at rest before and after the treatment. Notably LIR decreased significantly in 7 out of the 10 subjects (p < 0.01), while 3 subjects showed an increasing tendency. The present pilot study indicates that acupuncture is effective in decreasing anxiety levels in patients with anxiety disorders. Our NIRS data suggest that acupuncture may alter the balance of PFC activity at rest, resulting in relaxation effects. Our NIRS data suggest that acupuncture changes the balance of PFC activity toward left-dominant, resulting in relaxation effects on the patients.
KeywordsAcupuncture Depression NIRS Prefrontal cortex Stress
This research was supported in part by Grants-in-Aid for Exploratory Research (25560356) and Strategic Research Foundation Grant-aided Project for Private Universities (S1411017) from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Sciences and Technology of Japan, and grants from Alpha Electron Co., Ltd. (Fukushima, Japan), Iing Co., Ltd. (Tokyo, Japan) and Southern Tohoku General Hospital (Fukushima, Japan).
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