Pilot study of efficacy of tongue and body acupuncture in children with visual impairment

J Child Neurol. 2006 Jun;21(6):463-73.


We studied the efficacy of tongue and body acupuncture in affecting visual recovery in children with central and peripheral visual disorders. Twelve children (five boys, seven girls) (age range 18 months to 14.5 years) with visual disorder with static functional visual ability for at least 12 months were recruited for the study. The causes of cortical visual impairment (10) included severe perinatal asphyxia (4), postencephalitis (1), traumatic brain injury (1), hydrocephalus (1), and increased intracranial pressure (3). Peripheral causes (2) were due to congenital optic atrophy. We used the following assessment tools: clinical visual improvement, defined as improvement of vision by one grade in one or both eyes with measurement of visual acuity; the functional visual outcome scale of 0 to 5, with positive outcome defined as improvement in one level on a functional scale; visual evoked potential, with positive improvement defined as 10% improvement in P100 latency of one or both eyes; [18F]-fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG) positron emission tomography (PET) of the brain, with positive improvement defined as a 10% increase in glucose metabolism in one or both occipital lobes; and the Clinical Global Impression Scale (parental report). Tongue and body acupuncture consisted of 60 sessions, with 5 sessions per week. Four children showed clinical or functional improvement (33%). Of nine children with abnormal visual evoked potentials, five had improvement (56%). Of seven children who underwent PET, six had improvement in glucose metabolism in the visual cortex (86%). Seven parents (58%) reported improvement (three children had 75% improvement; four children had 25% improvement). There was a significant correlation between the interval of onset of visual impairment and starting treatment with clinical or functional outcome, with a longer interval resulting in a better outcome (P = .0282). However, there was no correlation between cause, severity, or clinical or functional visual outcome with improvement in the visual evoked potential or PET. We demonstrated that tongue and body acupuncture can improve the visual status of children with visual disorders, both peripheral and central in origin. As children with chronic visual impairment also showed some visual recovery, more studies should be done to assess the full potential of acupuncture as an adjunct to Western medicine in neuroplasticity.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Acupuncture Therapy*
  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Fluorodeoxyglucose F18
  • Glucose / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Occipital Lobe / diagnostic imaging
  • Occipital Lobe / metabolism
  • Pilot Projects
  • Positron-Emission Tomography
  • Radiopharmaceuticals
  • Tongue
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Vision Disorders / diagnostic imaging
  • Vision Disorders / metabolism
  • Vision Disorders / therapy*


  • Radiopharmaceuticals
  • Fluorodeoxyglucose F18
  • Glucose