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THE NEURO-PHYSIOLOGY OF ACUPUNCTURE

A. NAU

B. Illustration of  multiple neural pathways NAU’s stimulate

C. Further illustration of neuro-physiology of acupuncture

A. Neural Acupuncture Unit: (NAU) A New Concept for Interpreting Effects and Mechanisms of Acupuncture

Zhang-Jin Zhang, Xiao-Min Wang, and Grainne M. McAlonan

School of Chinese Medicine, LKS Faculty of Medicine, The University of Hong Kong, 10 Sassoon Road, Pokfulam, Hong Kong

National Institute of Nursing Research, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA

Department of Forensic and Neurodevelopmental Science, Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London, London, UK

Received 24 September 2011; Revised 30 November 2011; Accepted 1 December

B. Neural Acupuncture Unit

(NAU) was the name proposed by Dr Zhang and his colleagues in 2011 to more accurately convey the properties and function of traditional acupuncture points.  According to Dr. Zhang,  the traditional acupuncture points represent an  anatomical landmark system that indicates the external locations of relatively dense and concentrated neural tissue units that when stimulated enables electromagnetic signals to be relayed at greater than normal rate to exquisitely internally complicated systems -the human nervous system, the immune system and the endocrine system.

B. Illustration of  multiple neural pathways NAU’s stimulate

Below is a Schmatic illustration of multiple central neural pathways transmitting NAU afferent impluses from different parts of the body. The brain areas commonly observed in neuroimaging response to acupuncture stimulation are indicated with a gray shadow. DCEAS: dense crainial electroacupuncture stimulation.

C. Further illustration of neuro-physiology of acupuncture

CENTRAL NERVOUS SYSTEM LEVEL

Possible effects on higher brain functions (mood,

Depression anxiety). Feedback/descending regulation

Of pain, autonomic activity and hormonal milieu.

NERVOUS SYSTEM LEVEL

Action on autonomic activity and pain descending

Control system.

Control of sympatho-adrenal and hypothalamus-

pituitary adrenal/gonadal axis.

Mediators: Endorphins, ACTH, MSH, Lh, FSH, etc

Neurotransmitters (5-HT, NE), Neuropeptides

(Oxitocyn, Vasopressin PACAP, etc.) Growth Factors

SPINAL/SEGMENTAL LEVEL

Reflexive modulation of visceral organ function

Mediated by autonomic nervous system.

LOCAL LEVEL

Afferent nerve activation. Local reaction mediated by:

Neuropeptides, Prostaglandins, histamine Growth

Factors (NGF)

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