Neuroimaging in the Understanding of Acupuncture Analgesia: A Review of Acupuncture Neuroimaging Study Based on Experimental Pain Models

Front Neurosci. 2021 May 20;15:648305. doi: 10.3389/fnins.2021.648305. eCollection 2021.


With the development of real-time and visualized neuroimaging techniques, the studies on the central mechanism of acupuncture analgesia gain increasing attention. The experimental pain models have been widely used in acupuncture-analgesia neuroimaging studies with quantitative and controlled advantages. This review aimed to analyze the study design and main findings of acupuncture neuroimaging studies to provide reference for future study. The original studies were collected and screened in English databases (PubMed, EMBASE, and Cochrane Library) and Chinese databases (Chinese Nation Knowledge Infrastructure, Chinese Biomedical Literature Database, the Chongqing VIP Database, and Wanfang Database). As a result, a total of 27 articles were included. Heat stimulation and electroacupuncture were the mostly used pain modeling method and acupuncture modality, respectively. The neuroimaging scanning process can be divided into two models and five subtypes. The anterior cingulate cortex and insula were the most commonly reported brain regions involved in acupuncture analgesia with experimental pain models.

Keywords: acupuncture; analgesia; experimental pain model; neuroimaging; review.

Publication types

  • Review