This investigation aims to test the effect of acupuncture on word generation activation (WGA) in post-stroke aphasia patients. Seven vascular aphasia patients and 14 control subjects were studied using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Each performed: (1) a word generation (WG) task alone, followed by (2) repeating WG after insertion of acupuncture needles (WGN) into SJ 8 (a language-implicated acupoint), followed by (3) repeating WGN reinforced by electrical stimulation (WGA) of SJ 8, and finally (4) electrical stimulation (ES) of SJ 8 alone. Significant activation was found in the opercular, triangular, or insula during the ES stimulation in patients when comparing each patient to 14 normal controls. For the WG task, significant activation was found in the inferior frontal gyrus when comparing each patient to 14 normal controls. The signal induced by acupuncture was larger than that of the WG task in the left middle frontal gyrus with the comparison of WGA vs. WGN in seven patients. Further, main significant effects in the right insula in patients were observed when comparing seven patients to 14 normal controls. The activation induced by ES stimulation was only found on the left side in controls. This activation was observed on the lesion side of superior and middle frontal gyrus (SMFG) in patients. This study demonstrates for the first time that language-deficit-implicated acupoint stimulation can selectively activate the brain on the lesion side in post-stroke aphasia patients. These results suggest that acupuncture may have therapeutic benefits in post-stroke aphasia patients.
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