Alterations in the function of cerebral dopaminergic and serotonergic systems following electroacupuncture and moxibustion applications: possible correlates with their antistress and psychosomatic actions

Neurochem Res. 2004 Jan;29(1):283-93. doi: 10.1023/b:nere.0000010457.00855.8c.


Alterations in cerebral monoamines following application of electroacupuncture were investigated using conscious rats with and without application of restraining stress. The dopamine and serotonin levels were significantly decreased in the nucleus accumbens, caudate putamen, and lateral hypothalamus and increased in the dorsal raphe nucleus by restraining stress. On the other hand, application of electroacupuncture on the lumbar and hindlimb segments eliminated the above changes in dopamine, while the changes in serotonin were attenuated by lumbar and hindlimb electroacupuncture. However, the effects of hindlimb electroacupuncture were greater than those of lumbar electroacupuncture. These results clearly indicate that lumbar and hindlimb electroacupuncture stimulations have differential effects on brain monoaminergic neurons in rats exposed to restraining stress. Moxa burning stimulation was applied to the lumbar and hindlimb segments of rats without restraining stress. The dopamine level was significantly increased in the midbrain substantia nigra-ventrotegmental area by hindlimb moxibusion. On the other hand, the serotonin levels were significantly increased in the nucleus amygdala by lumber moxibusion and decreased in the nucleus accumbens by hindlimb moxibusion. The present results indicate that electroacupuncture applied to the lumbar and hindlimb segments has an antistress effect, while the application of moxibustion to the lumbar and hindlimb segments was likely to stimulate the functions of mesocortical and mesolimbic dopaminergic and serotonergic neurons. We suggest that functional alterations in cerebral dopaminergic and serotonergic neurons are involved in the clinical efficacy of electroacupuncture and moxibustion, especially because of their antistress and psychosomatic actions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Dopamine / metabolism*
  • Electroacupuncture*
  • Male
  • Moxibustion*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Serotonin / metabolism*
  • Stress, Physiological / metabolism*
  • Telencephalon / metabolism*


  • Serotonin
  • Dopamine