American researchers report that electro-acupuncture helps fibromyalgia pain, by altering the way the brain’s amygdala connects with its representation of the body. A total of 76 fibromyalgia patients were randomised to receive either electro-acupuncture or mock laser acupuncture, twice a week for a total of eight treatments. Functional brain network connectivity was assessed using resting state functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy, before and after treatment.
The electro-acupuncture group experienced a greater reduction in pain severity compared with the control group, and increased levels of an inhibitory neurotransmitter in the anterior insula, a small region of the cerebral cortex responsible for sensory processing. The researchers conclude that acupuncture can modulate functional connectivity and inhibitory neurochemistry, leading to reduced pain severity.
(Greater Somatosensory Afference With Acupuncture Increases Primary Somatosensory Connectivity and Alleviates Fibromyalgia Pain via Insular Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid: A Randomized Neuroimaging Trial. Arthritis & Rheumatology, July 2021.)