Acupuncture and neurotrophin modulation

Int Rev Neurobiol. 2013;111:91-124. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-12-411545-3.00005-5.


The Western explanation for acupuncture effectiveness is based upon more than half a century of basic and clinical research, which identified the activation of sensory system and the subsequent activity-dependent regulation of neurotransmitters, neurohormones, and several classes of neuromodulators as plausible mechanism for the acupuncture's therapeutic properties. The regulation of neurotrophins' expression and activity is one of the possible neurophysiological mechanisms underlying acupuncture's effects on neuropathic pain, nerve injury, neurodegeneration, and even in the regulation of gonadal functions. The present work will review the scientific literature produced by a decade of investigations on the relationship between acupuncture and neurotrophins. This scientific production and the current knowledge about the neural and neurohormonal activity-dependent regulation of neurotrophin expression/action suggest the existence of a link between the ability of acupuncture in regulating neural physiology and its effects on the neurotrophic milieu in different disease states.

Keywords: Acupuncture; BDNF; NGF; NT-3; NT-4; Neurotrophins; Physical therapy; Sortilin; Trk; p75(NTR).

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acupuncture Therapy*
  • Animals
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Nerve Growth Factors / metabolism*


  • Nerve Growth Factors