Temporal effect of acupuncture on amino acid neurotransmitters in rats with acute cerebral ischaemia

Acupunct Med. 2019 Aug;37(4):252-258. doi: 10.1136/acupmed-2017-011417. Epub 2019 Jul 25.


Background: Acupuncture stimulation at GV26 during the acute phase of cerebral ischaemia can effectively reduce brain damage induced by ischaemic injury. However, the time course of the effects of acupuncture stimulation has not yet been thoroughly studied.

Objective: To investigate the effects of manual acupuncture (MA) on glutamic acid (Glu) and γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) expression in the cerebrospinal fluid of rats with middle cerebral artery occlusion (MCAO) and determine whether there is a temporal effect of acupuncture on the treatment of cerebral ischaemia.

Methods: We performed thread occlusion of the right middle cerebral artery in rats to establish an animal model of MCAO. Simultaneously, during acupuncture treatment, microdialysis was used to continuously and dynamically observe immediate alterations in amino acid metabolism with acupuncture stimulation after cerebral ischaemia in vivo in this rat model of MCAO.

Results: We found that, in comparison with an untreated MCAO group, Glu content was significantly decreased during the first acupuncture stimulation and during the course of the acupuncture treatment in the MCAO+MA group (MCAO vs MCAO+MA: day 1, P=0.032; day 2, P=0.021; day 3, P=0.017). These findings were also seen after the end of treatment when acupuncture was no longer applied (MCAO vs MCAO+MA: day 7, P=0.009). Measurements of GABA content following cerebral ischaemic injury showed that GABA peaks 24 hours after damage, falls thereafter and decreases to baseline levels on day 7. In the MCAO+MA group, GABA content on days 1 to day 2 was lower than in the MCAO group (MCAO+MA vs MCAO: day 1, P=0.003; day 2, P=0.001), although it was higher than in the control group (MCAO+MA vs control: day 1, P=0.024; day 2, P=0.009). GABA content on day 3 and day 7 was higher in the MCAO+MA group than in the MCAO group and the control group (MCAO+MA vs MCAO: day 3, P=0.008; day 7, P=0.013; MCAO+MA vs control: day 3, P=0.002; day 7, P=0.009).

Conclusion: Acupuncture stimulation at GV26 can effectively decrease excessive release of Glu induced by ischaemia and maintain the endogenous inhibitory activity of GABA. This phenomenon was seen during the entire course of acupuncture treatment and continued for some time after the end of acupuncture treatment.

Keywords: acupuncture; cerebral ischaemia; glutamic acid; stroke; γ-aminobutyric acid.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acupuncture Therapy*
  • Animals
  • Brain Ischemia / metabolism
  • Brain Ischemia / therapy*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Glutamic Acid / metabolism*
  • Hippocampus / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Infarction, Middle Cerebral Artery / metabolism
  • Infarction, Middle Cerebral Artery / therapy
  • Male
  • Neurotransmitter Agents / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid / metabolism*


  • Neurotransmitter Agents
  • Glutamic Acid
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid