Objective: To determine the attributes of responses of the higher nerve center to acupuncture stimulation of Zusanli (ST36) on the basis of spontaneous brain activity, so as to explore the synchronization level of different brain rejoins after acupuncture.
Methods: All studies using fMRI to investigate the effect of acupuncture stimulation of ST36 and/or other acupoints on the human brain (at least 10 healthy subjects or patients in one group) published in journals from January of 1995 to January of 2018 were searched from databases of CNKI and PubMed by using keywords of acupuncture, electroacupuncture, and resting-state functional magnetic resonance images (rs-fMRI) or regional homogeneity (ReHo). Brain functional image data of acupuncture stimulation of ST36 and/or other acupoints were collected and analyzed with anisotropic effect size-signed differential mapping (AES-SDM) software (Meta-analysis), and those of acupuncture of simple ST36 analyzed as a subgroup.
Results: A total of 229 papers in Chinese and 109 in English were collected. According to our inclusive and exclusive standards, 11 papers containing 235 subjects were brought into analysis at last. Meta-analysis of brain image data of acupuncture at ST36 and/or other acupoints (comparison between pre- and post-acupuncture) revealed that the same brain regions (generality) which showed a significant increase in ReHo, are the right and left anterior cingulated gyrus, right caudate, left superior frontal gyrus, right middle frontal gyrus, and the right paracentral lobe, and those which showed a marked decrease of ReHo are the left mid-inferior occipital gyrus, left and right precentral and postcentral gyrus. The brain regions responding to acupuncture at ST36 only (specificity) are the right inferior parietal lobe, left middle inferior gyrus, right posterior lobe of cerebellum, and the left angular gyrus which displayed an increase of ReHo, and the right middle superior frontal gyrus which showed a decrease in ReHo.
Conclusion: After acupuncturing at ST36, the relative generality and specificity of the central response in healthy subjects reflected as the location of the affected brain regions and the difference in the synchronization level of the corresponding spontaneous brain activities.
Keywords: Acupuncture; Generality; Regional homogeneity; Specificity; Spontaneous brain activity; Zusanli (ST36); fMRI.