Researchers using functional MRI scanning have found that acupuncture induces significant connectivity changes in the brains of patients recovering from Bell’s palsy. Previous studies have demonstrated disruption to connectivity between the somatosensory area and other brain regions.
Brain activity was studied in 20 Bell’s palsy patients (aged 19 to 70), and also in 28 healthy subjects (aged 23 to 54). All were given fMRI scans before and after acupuncture at the point Hegu which is frequently included by acupuncturists treating this condition. Acupuncture was found to significantly increase connectivity in the primary somatosensory area, in patients still recovering from Bell’s palsy. Interestingly, there were no such changes in the already-recovered and in the healthy group. The researchers conclude that their findings may begin to shed light on the underlying mechanisms by which acupuncture treats Bell’s palsy.
(Acupuncture-induced changes in functional connectivity of the primary somatosensory cortex varied with pathological stages of Bell’s palsy. NeuroReport 1 October 2014.)