Acupuncture is a practice of treatment based on influencing specific points on the body by inserting needles. According to traditional Chinese medicine, the aim of acupuncture treatment for pain management is to use specific acupoints to relieve excess, activate qi (or vital energy), and improve blood circulation. In this context, the Hegu point is one of the most widely-used acupoints for this purpose, and it has been linked to having an analgesic effect. However, there exists considerable debate as to its scientific validity. In this pilot study, we aim to identify the functional connectivity related to the three main types of acupuncture manipulations and also identify an analgesic effect based on the hemodynamic response as measured by functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS). The cortical response of eleven healthy subjects was obtained using fNIRS during an acupuncture procedure. A multiscale analysis based on wavelet transform coherence was employed to assess the functional connectivity of corresponding channel pairs within the left and right somatosensory region. The wavelet analysis was focused on the very-low frequency oscillations (VLFO, 0.01⁻0.08 Hz) and the low frequency oscillations (LFO, 0.08⁻0.15 Hz). A mixed model analysis of variance was used to appraise statistical differences in the wavelet domain for the different acupuncture stimuli. The hemodynamic response after the acupuncture manipulations exhibited strong activations and distinctive cortical networks in each stimulus. The results of the statistical analysis showed significant differences ( p < 0.05 ) between the tasks in both frequency bands. These results suggest the existence of different stimuli-specific cortical networks in both frequency bands and the anaesthetic effect of the Hegu point as measured by fNIRS.
Keywords: Hegu point; NIRS; acupoints; anaesthesia; connectivity; nociception; pain; pain perception; repeated measures.