Acupuncture is an ancient Eastern healing modality that is currently gaining popularity in the West as an 'alternative'therapy. However, little is known about its biological mechanisms in humans. The proposed investigation will non-invasively map the spatiotemporal dynamics of neural activity supporting acupuncture stimulation in humans through the use of anatomically constrained magnetoencephalography (MEG). First, we will spatiotemporally map event-related brain response underlying acupuncture stimulation and compare these responses with those occurring to sham acupuncture control. We will also spatiotemporal map changes in oscillatory brain responses during verum and sham procedures as well as rest. Finally, we will determine if MEG responses are correlated with subjective deqi ratings and/or changes in sympathovagal balance. The use of anatomically constrained MEG to spatiotemporally map brain response to acupuncture is novel and there are currently no published data utilizing this imaging modality or strategy. We anticipate that the proposed investigation will provide a foundation for future investigations in chronic pain populations. The requested award would provide the candidate with the resources necessary to become a successful independent researcher. The 5 year research and educational plan outlined will allow the candidate to increase her understanding of functional neuroimaging and develop her knowledge of acupuncture and its neurophysiological mechanisms of action. Importantly, the candidate would gain new expertise in a number of areas critical for conducting the proposed research project. These areas include acupuncture theory/practice, somatosensory signal transduction, autonomic nervous system function and physiological monitoring. The candidate would be conducting these studies in a world renowned MRI and MEG neuroimaging facility. Furthermore, proximity to institutes devoted to the study of complimentary therapies such as the Osher Institute, New England School of Acupuncture and Spaulding Rehabilitation Center will allow the candidate to interact with and learn from experienced acupuncture researchers. This proposal aligns with the NCCAM mission statement and strategic plan to explore CAM healing practices in the context of rigorous science as well as train CAM researchers and elucidate mechanisms of action underlying CAM practices. This proposal also aligns with NIH PA-06-001.
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