Acupuncture Continuing Education

Music Electroacupuncture Outperforms Antidepressant Drug For Depression

Music electroacupuncture benefits the brain and demonstrates efficaciousness in the treatment of depression.

Researchers conclude that music electroacupuncture causes improved behavioral changes and benefits to neuronal structures in the hippocampus. In a laboratory experiment on depressive rats, music electroacupuncture outperforms fluoxetine (trade name Prozac) for regulating monoamine neurotransmitter levels. Based on the findings, the researchers (Cao et al.) conclude that music electroacupuncture demonstrates efficaciousness for the treatment of depression.


 Electroacupuncture on a woman's back


In a separate investigation (Tang et al.), two types of acupuncture are found to successfully regulate behavioral changes and β-amyloid protein levels in a laboratory experiment. Based on the findings, the researchers note that music electroacupuncture and standard pulsed electroacupuncture may assist in the prevention of Alzheimer Disease. In a controlled experiment, laboratory rats receiving electroacupuncture had decreased latency times, improved swimming distances, and significant reductions of β-amyloid protein levels. β-amyloid (Aβ) proteins are the main constituents of amyloid plaques occurring in Alzheimer disease patients’ brains. The researchers note that music electroacupuncture and standard electroacupuncture improved “learning and memorizing abilities.” Notably, music electroacupuncture outperformed standard electroacupuncture. 

Music electroacupuncture differs from standard electroacupuncture. Unlike a consistent electronic pulse, music electroacupuncture switches frequencies and waveforms in rhythmic patterns. Choices of electroacupuncture settings are based on five musical notations (Gong, Shang, Jue, Zhi, Yu). Each setting corresponds to Traditional Chinese Medicine principles of the Five Elements (wood, fire, earth, metal, water) and their corresponding organ systems (liver/gallbladder, heart/small intestine, spleen/stomach, lung/large intestine, kidney/bladder). The settings are adjusted for compatibility with the corresponding differential diagnosis for each patient.

At the Healthcare Medicine Institute (HealthCMi), we have not had a chance to test the music electroacupuncture device. However, we recently tested the ITO ES-160 electroacupuncture device and confirmed its efficaciousness for the alleviation of pain using the sweep mode. Sweep mode involves a gradual increase and decrease of pulse frequencies over time. This varies from standard intermittent modes, common in many devices, that employ alternating slow and fast frequencies.

The adding of subtle gradations between frequency changes in sweep mode demonstrated significant clinical advantages for the treatment of several pain conditions. While the ES-160 has standard intermittent modes, we find the sweep mode an important addition. In our workbench test, we also confirmed that the unit is reliable and sturdy.

The music electroacupuncture device adds a program that changes waveforms and adjusts both frequencies and waveforms in rhythmic patterns. The device is the ZJ-12h made by
SX-Ultrasonic Co., Ltd. (Shenzhen). The company provides electroacupuncture equipment and ultrasonic devices for hospitals, medical universities, rehabilitation centers, and other medical facilities. Based on the independent cortical research, Healthcare Medicine Institute professors are looking forward to testing the ZJ-12h music electroacupuncture device in the future. Of great interest is whether or not the rhythmic settings provide specific benefits relevant to differential diagnostics. This distinction is important given that our ES-160 findings confirm that variations in pulses provides clinical benefits. Once tested, we’ll post the information in HealthCMi live webinars in our acupuncture continuing education series focusing on acupuncture research discoveries.

The laboratory research finds that music electroacupuncture and conventional pulsed electroacupuncture are effective in treating depression in rats. Researchers (Tang et al.) from Beijing University of Chinese Medicine determined, through a protocolized investigation, that both types of electroacupuncture produced positive outcomes in depressed rat models, but music electroacupuncture produced the highest rate of positive outcomes across various metrics. Given the prevalence of depression in society, this research includes important subjective and objective findings.

In this laboratory study, rats receiving electroacupuncture (either music or conventional) displayed higher horizontal activity, vertical activity, sugar consumption, body mass, and expression of serotonin (5-HT), dopamine (DA), and norepinephrine (NE) in the frontal lobe and hippocampus. Additionally, rats treated with music electroacupuncture reported a higher 5-HT expression than those treated with conventional electroacupuncture. Overall, music and conventional pulsed electroacupuncture demonstrated antidepressant effects in rats, however, music electroacupuncture demonstrated a greater regulatory effect on monoamine neurotransmitters than conventional pulsed electroacupuncture and fluoxetine.

The experiment involved several controlled variables. A total of 50 depression model rats were divided into 5 equal groups of 10 as follows:

  • Control group: Rats were grouped together. Unlimited supply of water and food was provided. Did not receive any stimulation.
  • Model group: Rats were isolated. Received 21 days of chronic unpredictable mild stress stimulation.
  • Fluoxetine group: Rats were isolated. Fluoxetine was diluted with saline to a density of 2 mg/ml. For each rat, 10 ml of diluted fluoxetine was administered per kg of body mass. Medication was administered once per day, one hour before chronic unpredictable mild stress stimulation.
  • Standard pulsed electroacupuncture group: Rats were isolated. Treatment was administered one hour prior to chronic unpredictable mild stress stimulation.
  • Music electroacupuncture: Rats were isolated. Treatment was administered one hour prior to chronic unpredictable mild stress stimulation.

The acupuncture point prescription included standard filiform needle stimulation of acupoints Yintang (MHN3) and Baihui (GV20). For each acupoint in the standard pulsed electroacupuncture group, a filiform acupuncture needle was connected to an electroacupuncture device and was inserted horizontally. During insertion, the needle tip was pointed posteriorly for Baihui and downwards for Yintang. The electrical frequency was set to 2/100 Hz and the intensity was set to 1 mA. The needles were retained for 20 minutes. One 20 minute acupuncture session was conducted per day for a total of 21 days.


ZJ-12h Music Electroacupuncture DeviceZJ-12h Music Electroacupuncture Device


For the music electroacupuncture group, acupoint selection and treatment of acupoints was identical to that of the pulsed electroacupuncture group. However, instead of a conventional electroacupuncture device, the needles were connected to a music electroacupuncture device. Voltage was set to 2 V and intensity to 1 mA, until the needle tip was vibrating slightly but did not cause the rat to squeak. An antidepressant music electroacupuncture setting was chosen. The needles were retained for 20 minutes and one 20 minute acupuncture session was conducted per day for a total of 21 days.

The Tang et al. laboratory experiment demonstrated significant improvements in behavioral and objective results, including improvements in serotonin (5-HT), dopamine (DA), and norepinephrine (NE) levels determined by radioimmunoassay in depression model rats. Additional testing with human subjects is required, including large sample size meta-analyses, to determine the overall efficaciousness of music electroacupuncture for the treatment of depression. Also, a workbench test of music electroacupuncture devices will help to determine its usefulness in clinical settings. At the Healthcare Medicine Institute, we look forward to taking a closer look at this innovative approach to electroacupuncture.


Tang YS, Ji Q, Cao J, Teng JY, Deng XF, Li J, Li ZG. (2014). Influence of Music Electroacupuncture and Pulsed Electroacupuncture on the Different Encephalic Regions of Monoamine Neurotransmitter Chronic Unpredictable Mild Stress Depression Model Rats. Journal of Clinical Acupuncture and Moxibustion. 30(3).

Cao J, Tang Y, Li Z, Ji Q, Yao H, Mo Y, Wang X, Song L. Effects of Music Electro-Acupuncture on the Expression of Monoamine Neurotransmitter in Different Encephalic Regions in Chronic Unpredictable Mild Stress Depression Model Rats. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 2014 May 1;20(5):A39.

Tang Y, Cao J, Li Z, Chen W, Xu AP, Mo YP, Yao H, Wang X, Liang C. Effects of Music Electro-Acupuncture and Pulsed Electro-Acupuncture on Behavioral Changes and the Serum β-amyloid Protein in SAMP8 (Senescence Accelerated Mouse Prone 8) Mice. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 2014 May 1;20(5):A38.


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