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ACUPUNCTURE AND MOXIBUSTION AND NEURAL REGENERATION
Year : 2012  |  Volume : 7  |  Issue : 33  |  Page : 2607-2616

Acupuncture inhibits cue-induced heroin craving and brain activation


1 School of Acupuncture and Orthopedics, Anhui University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Hefei 230038, Anhui Province, China
2 Institute of Acupuncture and Meridians, Anhui University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Hefei 230038, Anhui Province, China
3 Medical Imaging Center, First Affiliated Hospital of Anhui University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Hefei 230031, Anhui Province, China

Correspondence Address:
Xiaoge Song
Researcher, Institute of Acupuncture and Meridians, Anhui University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Hefei 230038, Anhui Province
China
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Source of Support: This study was supported by the Natural Science Foundation of Anhui University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, No. 2011zr001A and the Key Project for Science and Technology of Anhui Province, No. 07010302205., Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.3969/j.issn.1673-5374.2012.33.006

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Previous research using functional MRI has shown that specific brain regions associated with drug dependence and cue-elicited heroin craving are activated by environmental cues. Craving is an important trigger of heroin relapse, and acupuncture may inhibit craving. In this study, we performed functional MRI in heroin addicts and control subjects. We compared differences in brain activation between the two groups during heroin cue exposure, heroin cue exposure plus acupuncture at the Zusanli point (ST36) without twirling of the needle, and heroin cue exposure plus acupuncture at the Zusanli point with twirling of the needle. Heroin cue exposure elicited significant activation in craving-related brain regions mainly in the frontal lobes and callosal gyri. Acupuncture without twirling did not significantly affect the range of brain activation induced by heroin cue exposure, but significantly changed the extent of the activation in the heroin addicts group. Acupuncture at the Zusanli point with twirling of the needle significantly decreased both the range and extent of activation induced by heroin cue exposure compared with heroin cue exposure plus acupuncture without twirling of the needle. These experimental findings indicate that presentation of heroin cues can induce activation in craving-related brain regions, which are involved in reward, learning and memory, cognition and emotion. Acupuncture at the Zusanli point can rapidly suppress the activation of specific brain regions related to craving, supporting its potential as an intervention for drug craving. Research Highlights
  1. Because there have been no previous controlled comparisons, in this study, to provide objective and convincing results, brain activation was compared under heroin cue exposure, heroin cue exposure plus acupuncture at the Zusanli point (ST36) without twirling of the needle, and heroin cue exposure plus acupuncture at the Zusanli point with twirling of the needle.
  2. Heroin cues exposure activated craving-related brain regions such as the frontal lobe, which have been associated with reward, learning and memory, cognition, and emotion.
  3. Because acupuncture at the Zusanli point with twirling of the needle rapidly suppressed the activation of the craving-related brain regions, it may be a viable intervention for drug craving.
Abbreviation fMRI: functional MRI


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