The effect of acupuncture on working memory and anxiety

J Acupunct Meridian Stud. 2013 Oct;6(5):241-6. doi: 10.1016/j.jams.2012.12.006. Epub 2013 Jan 8.


Objective: The purpose of this study was to investigate whether acupuncture can improve memory and reduce anxiety.

Design, setting and subjects: A two-group, randomized, single-blind study involving 90 undergraduate university students was conducted from January to December of 2011.

Interventions: Subjects completed the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI) form Y-1 (State Anxiety, SA) and Y-2 (Trait Anxiety, TA). Then, each subject lay on a treatment table for 20 minutes. The acupuncture group had needles inserted into select acupoints; control subjects did not. Subjects then completed the STAI form Y-1 again, after which they completed the Automated Operation Span Task (AOSPAN) - a computerized test of working memory.

Main outcome measures: Performance on the AOSPAN and the STAI scores were the main measures of the outcomes.

Results: The acupuncture group scored 9.5% higher than the control group on the AOSPAN Total Correct Score (65.39 vs. 59.9, p=0.0134), and committed 36% fewer math errors (2.68 vs. 4.22, p=0.0153). Acupuncture subjects also reported lower SA after intervention than control subjects (26.14 vs. 29.63, p=0.0146).

Keywords: acupuncture; anxiety; automated operation span task; state-trait anxiety inventory; working memory.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Acupuncture Therapy*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anxiety / psychology
  • Anxiety / therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory, Short-Term / physiology*
  • Single-Blind Method
  • Task Performance and Analysis
  • Treatment Outcome