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Intersubject synchronisation analysis of brain activity associated with the instant effects of acupuncture: an fMRI study
  1. Lingmin Jin,
  2. Jinbo Sun,
  3. Ziliang Xu,
  4. Xuejuan Yang,
  5. Peng Liu,
  6. Wei Qin
  1. School of Life Sciences and Technology, Xidian University, Xi’an, Shaanxi, China
  1. Correspondence to Dr Wei Qin, School of Life Sciences and Technology, Xidian University, Section of Xifeng Road, Xi’an, Shaanxi 710126, China; wqin{at}


Objective To use a promising analytical method, namely intersubject synchronisation (ISS), to evaluate the brain activity associated with the instant effects of acupuncture and compare the findings with traditional general linear model (GLM) methods.

Methods 30 healthy volunteers were recruited for this study. Block-designed manual acupuncture stimuli were delivered at SP6, and de qi sensations were measured after acupuncture stimulation. All subjects underwent functional MRI (fMRI) scanning during the acupuncture stimuli. The fMRI data were separately analysed by ISS and traditional GLM methods.

Results All subjects experienced de qi sensations. ISS analysis showed that the regions activated during acupuncture stimulation at SP6 were mainly divided into five clusters based on the time courses. The time courses of clusters 1 and 2 were in line with the acupuncture stimulation pattern, and the active regions were mainly involved in the sensorimotor system and salience network. Clusters 3, 4 and 5 displayed an almost contrary time course relative to the stimulation pattern. The brain regions activated included the default mode network, descending pain modulation pathway and visual cortices. GLM analysis indicated that the brain responses associated with the instant effects of acupuncture were largely implicated in sensory and motor processing and sensory integration.

Conclusion The ISS analysis considered the sustained effect of acupuncture and uncovered additional information not shown by GLM analysis. We suggest that ISS may be a suitable approach to investigate the brain responses associated with the instant effects of acupuncture.

  • acupuncture instant effect
  • functional magnetic resonance imaging
  • intersubject synchronization
  • general linear model

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  • Contributors WQ and XY designed the study. LJ acquired the data. JS, ZX and PL analysed the data. LJ, JS and WQ prepared the manuscript and critically revised it. All authors read and approved the final version accepted for publication.

  • Funding Project for the National Basic Research Program of China (grant no. 2014CB543203, 2012CB518501 and 2015CB856403), National Natural Science Foundation of China (grant no. 81271644, 81471811, 81471738, 61401346 and 31200837) and Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent Obtained.

  • Ethics approval Research ethics committee of West China Hospital.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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