Sci Rep. 2014 Sep 26;4:6482. doi: 10.1038/srep06482.
Acupuncture modulates cortical thickness and functional connectivity in knee osteoarthritis patients.
Chen X, Spaeth RB, Retzepi K, Ott D, Kong J.
Author information

In this study, we investigated cortical thickness and functional connectivity across longitudinal acupuncture treatments in patients with knee osteoarthritis (OA). Over a period of four weeks (six treatments), we collected resting state functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans from 30 patients before their first, third and sixth treatments. Clinical outcome showed a significantly greater Knee Injury and Osteoarthritis Outcome Score (KOOS) pain score (improvement) with verum acupuncture compared to the sham acupuncture. Longitudinal cortical thickness analysis showed that the cortical thickness at left posterior medial prefrontal cortex (pMPFC) decreased significantly in the sham group across treatment sessions as compared with verum group. Resting state functional connectivity (rsFC) analysis using the left pMPFC as a seed showed that after longitudinal treatments, the rsFC between the left pMPFC and the rostral anterior cingulate cortex (rACC), medial frontal pole (mFP) and periaquiduct grey (PAG) are significantly greater in the verum acupuncture group as compared with the sham group. Our results suggest that acupuncture may achieve its therapeutic effect on knee OA pain by preventing cortical thinning and decreases in functional connectivity in major pain related areas, therefore modulating pain in the descending pain modulatory pathway.