For years now there have been reports that acupuncture improves Parkinson's disease symptoms including body posture, tremor, and rigidity. Now a recent study in the journal Movement Disorders demonstrates that acupuncture does indeed activate areas in the brain that are normally responsible for movement and that are typically not functioning normally in PD. Specifically the authors used functional magnetic resonance imaging to study brain effects of acupuncture at acupoint GB34—a site traditionally used to improve motor functioning. The investigators found that when the left GB34 acupoint was stimulated, brain activity in the putamen and the motor cortex-two key motor function areas that are impaired in PD, demonstrated a significant correlation with the degree of the enhanced motor function (a finger tapping task) associated with acupuncture treatment in the patients with PD. The findings indicate that acupuncture stimulation can consistently influence those brain regions that are known to be impaired in PD.
In short acupuncture may be construed as a form of deep brain stimulation via systematic stimulation of the skin. It may therefore one day prove to be an effective tool in the battle against PD.
Lee MS,Shin BC,Kong JC,Ernst E. Effectiveness of acupuncture for Parkinson's disease: a systematic review. Mov Disord 2008; 23: 1505-1515.
Younbyoung Chae, Hyejung Lee, Hackjin Kim, Chang-Hwan Kim, Dae-Il Chang, Kyung-Mi Kim, Hi-Joon Park. Parsing brain activity associated with acupuncture treatment in Parkinson's diseases (p NA) Movement Disorders, Published Online: Jun 16 2009 2:42PM DOI: 10.1002/mds.22673