Patients receiving acupuncture sometimes manifest phenomena such as laughter or crying; varying degrees of relaxation or euphoria are quite common. Rarely, epileptic fits occur. Patients vary considerably in their responsiveness to acupuncture: some fail to respond at all while others (strong reactors) experience marked effects. It is widely recognised that fear of acupuncture generally precludes a therapeutic response, whereas belief in the efficacy of the treatment is irrelevant. All these phenomena must presumably have a neurophysiological explanation. This paper proposes that they may, at least in part, be caused by processes occurring in those brain structures that are classified as forming the limbic system. The paper briefly reviews the history and status of the limbic system idea, discusses how limbic system structures may contribute to the phenomena in question, and offers a number of predictions which would allow these hypotheses to be tested.
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