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Anxiolytic-like behavioural effects of head electroacupuncture in rats susceptible to stress
  1. Jia Chen1,
  2. Douglas W Barrett2,
  3. Yuxin He3,
  4. F Gonzalez-Lima2
  1. 1Department of Traditional Chinese Medicine, School of Medicine, Jinan University, Guangzhou, China
  2. 2Department of Psychology and Institute for Neuroscience, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas, USA
  3. 3AOMA Graduate School of Integrative Medicine, Austin, Texas, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr F Gonzalez-Lima, University of Texas at Austin, 108 E. Dean Keeton Stop A8000, Austin, TX 78712, USA; gonzalezlima{at}


Aim To evaluate the behavioural effects of head electroacupuncture (EA) using the Holtzman rat model, a genetic strain showing susceptibility to stress-evoked helplessness.

Methods Putative anxiolytic and antidepressant behavioural effects of head EA were investigated using the light-dark and forced swim tests, respectively. The open field test was used to investigate motor activity. A total of 28 rats were used in two experiments, each with two groups (n=7 rats each). Rats were restrained and randomised to handling only (control) or 2Hz EA on the midline head anteriorly (at Yintang) and posteriorly (at GV20) for 3 days (experiment 1) or 4 days (experiment 2).

Results One day of EA did not modify behaviour in any of the tests (p>0.1); however, 2 days of 2 Hz EA treatment to the head had anxiolytic-like effects, as indicated by an improvement in ambulatory time and average velocity in the light-dark test (experiment 2). Relative to the control group, the EA group demonstrated greater ambulatory time (37.0±3.7 vs 25.2±3.6 s, p<0.05) and lower average velocity (2.73±0.06 vs 3.08±0.13 cm/s, p<0.05). However, EA treatment had no significant effects on the open field and forced swim tests in either experiment.

Conclusions Two days of EA treatment using 2 Hz pulsating electrical current at midline anterior and posterior acupuncture points on the head induces behavioural effects suggestive of anxiolysis.


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