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Acupuncture Increases Brain Function for Patients with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI)

By: Vanessa Vogel Batt L.Ac. MSOM

There has been a push in recent years to study mild cognitive impairment (MCI), which causes issues with memory, cognition and learning. MCI occurs prior to the onset of Alzheimer's disease in elderly patients and the symptoms go beyond what are considered normal, age-related changes.

There are no pharmacological drugs available to treat MCI in the long-run, so researchers set out to discover if acupuncture could provide substantial medical benefits.

The results of their efforts appear in the study entitled "Modulatory effects of acupuncture on brain networks in mild cognitive impairment patients." The study appeared in the medical publication Neural Regeneration Research in February of 2017.

The study involved 32 patients, all with a diagnosis of amnestic MCI. Half of the study participants received real acupuncture treatments specifically designed to improve cognitive functions in the brain.

The other half of the patients received sham acupuncture which did not specifically treat MCI or increase cognitive function. All of the study participants had five acupuncture sessions per week for one month.

Using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), researchers tracked the lines of communications between different areas of the brain related to cognitive functions.

The real acupuncture group showed a statistically significant increase in their cognitive brain functions after their treatments. The sham acupuncture group did not show any improvement in the cognitive-related areas of their brains.

The study showed that acupuncture is effective for improving cognitive functions in patients afflicted with MCI. Due to the low risk for side effects and the outstanding results of the study, the researchers recommended the use of acupuncture to improve cognition in MCI patients.

Source: Tan, T., Wang, D., Huang, J., Zhou, X., Yuan, X., Liang, J., … Chen, S. (2017). Modulatory effects of acupuncture on brain networks in mild cognitive impairment patients. Neural Regeneration Research, 12(2), 250–258. http://doi.org/10.4103/1673-5374.200808

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About the Author: Vanessa Vogel Batt, L.Ac., MSTOM, studied at the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine, and practiced acupuncture and Oriental medicine in New York for several years. Vanessa enjoys traveling the world, and has published articles on acupuncture and Oriental medicine and related health topics for websites and publications in both the U.S. and abroad.

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