A new investigation of laser acupuncture for the treatment of depression demonstrates important MRI results. Researchers compared the effects of laser acupuncture, a type of acupuncture using laser light instead of needles, between healthy and depressed individuals. The investigators discovered that laser acupuncture was able to stimulate areas of the brain necessary for the treatment of depression in the patients suffering from depression.
Acupuncture points for the treatment of depression were chosen for the study. In an interesting twist, the healthy individuals did not react to the laser acupuncture stimulation in the same way as the depressed patients. MRI findings show that healthy individuals receiving identical laser acupuncture stimulation show greater stimulation of the anterior DMN and depressed patients showed a greater modulatory effect on the posterior DMN.
The posterior DMN, default mode network, is an area of the brain that has connectivity issues to other areas of the brain in depressed patients. Issues involving the posterior DMN occur during major depression and are involved in negative reflections and ruminations. The laser acupuncture treatment for depression targeted modulation of this region in depressed individuals. In healthy patients, the laser acupuncture activation primarily occurred in the anterior DMN. The anterior DMN activity is associated with self-reflection and a healthy self-esteem. The researchers suggest that selective modulation of the posterior DMN by laser acupuncture in depressed individuals demonstrates that laser acupuncture engages an antidepressant effect on the brain.
The DMN network of the brain engages when the mind is at rest and/or performing non-task oriented internal operations. DMN activation occurs during daydreaming, envisioning the future, memory retrieval and evaluation of perspectives. These are task-negative brain functions as opposed to reading a newspaper are any other function wherein the brain is attempting to complete a specific task. The resting brain state and its close relationship to DMN activation is associated with mental well-being. The DMN activation of the brain at rest coalesces a sense of wholeness within an individual and allows for greater concentration when the brain returns to task specific states. This study shows that acupuncture exhibits a modulatory response on the DMN thereby assisting the brain of depressed patients.
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The researchers stimulated acupuncture points LR14, LR8, CV14 and HT7 while recording responses in the brain with a whole brain MRI scanner. LR14 was chosen because it is an Alarm Point of the Liver channel and therefore activates the therapeutic effects rapidly. The researchers noted that LR8 was chosen because it is a Water Point of the Liver channel and it is useful in the treatment of Liver Fire, headaches and pain. CV14 was chosen because it is the Alarm Point of the Heart channel, which is associated with the treatment of emotional issues. The researchers also noted that CV14 specifically treats gastrointestinal disorders caused by depression. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) theory, CV14 benefits the Heart, stops pain, unblocks the chest, calms the spirit and harmonizes the Stomach. The researchers note that the choice of HT7 was chosen for its calming, sedating qualities. According the Traditional Chinese Medicine, HT7 is a Shu Stream point, a Source point and Earth point. Its main functions are to calm the spirit and to regulate the Heart.
Im Quah-Smith, Chao Suo, Mark A. Williams, and Perminder S. Sachdev. Medical Acupuncture. -Not available-, ahead of print. doi:10.1089/acu.2012.0901.