Acupuncture Increases Brain Function for Patients with MCI

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 and symptoms go beyond 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 “Modulatory effects of acupuncture on brain networks in mild cognitive impairment patients” published in the February 2017 issue of Neural Regeneration Research.

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.

Optimize Brain Fitness

“The Head is the seat of the Essential Brightness” (Chinese Medicine: Chapter 70 Simple Questions)

Keep your mind active, stimulated and challenged.  Studies show that physical fitness and cognitive exercise improves blood flow to the brain and reduces the affects that aging can have on brain function.  People who exercise regularly have less “brain shrinkage” which correlates to maintaining mental sharpness, equilibrium, good posture, and physique.  Mental exercises such as reading, studying, meditation, learning to play a musical instrument or speak a new language aid in slowing down memory loss.

Acupuncture Improves Brain Health

Acupuncture has proven clinical benefits of augmenting spatial learning and memory. Numerous brain studies during acupuncture that incorporate cerebral functional imaging before, during and after acupuncture treatments showed a significant increase in the stimulation of nerve cells and metabolic function in the brain.  These results suggest that acupuncture can help improve mental clarity, memory, and cognitive function.

Other studies have shown positive results regarding how acupuncture affects the performance of students taking an exam or those with Alzheimer’s disease and memory impairment induced by diabetes and cerebral ischemia.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) cognitive function is dependent upon and affected by the health of all organs as well as the brain.

“All Essential Qi of the Yin and Yang Organs rise to the Head.” (Physician Zhang Jiebin, Ming Dynaasty)

All the yang channels either start or end on the head and face and influence brain function in neurological diseases.  The yin organs are solid in nature and include the liver, heart, spleen, lungs and kidneys.  The pericardium is considered a sixth yin organ.  The yang organs are hollow and are the triple burner, small intestine, large intestine, gall bladder, urinary bladder, and stomach.   Your acupuncturist will determine which organ system related to each channel is out of balance and contributing to mental and emotional problems that may include cerebral weakness, speech difficulties, disturbance of will power and/or movement

The Heart houses the “Shen”, which is the spirit or mind of a person.  The Shen embodies consciousness, emotions and thought.  It influences long term memory, contributes to wisdom and presides over activities that involve mental and creative functions.  When the mind is healthy, we can think clearly. When the mind is imbalanced one may experience agitation, manic – depressive disorder, insomnia, confusion, poor memory and clouded thinking.

Kidney’s supply a vital substance called Jing and marrow which are the material foundation for the central nervous system and the grey marrow which constitutes a large portion of the brain.  The Sea of Marrow is responsible for memory, concentration, and cognitive function.

Chinese scalp acupuncture integrates Chinese needling methods with Western medical knowledge of the brain’s neuroanatomy.  The area or line on the scalp treated affects the brain below the needle through the nervous system to corresponding parts of the body. The needles act as a transmitter – receiver in direct contact with the central nervous system and endocrine system.  By stimulating those reflex areas, acupuncture can have direct effects on the cerebral cortex, cerebellum, thalmo-cortical circuits, thalamus, hypothalamus, and pineal body.  Scalp acupuncture treats and prevents disease through the proper insertion of needles into scalp areas.  Special manipulations are applied to regulate, strengthen, and harmonize the functional activities of the brain and body.

In addition to the scalp lines, there are many acupuncture points on the head that correspond to various areas of the brain and can be used when there is weakness, congestion and/or damage. The Gall Bladder point 5 is close to the motor area of the brain and is useful after a stroke or when there is damage to the central nervous system, Alzheimer’s, epilepsy or migraines.

Conception Vessel = CV Small Intestines = SI
Gall Bladder = G Stomach = ST
Governor Vessel = GV Tripple Warmer + TW
Large Intestines = LI Urinary Bladder = B

Mental Self Care with Acupressure

Mental Energy Boost: Press or tap on the acupuncture point located between the bottom of your nose and your upper lip (GV or Du 26), or GV 20 which is at the very top of the head with moderate force for 30 seconds.

Mental Recall: Massage or tap the points around the eyes and hairline (Gall Bladder (G 1,14,4,5,6)).

Stimulate Calm Focus: Acupressure or tap Yintang located between the eyebrows and referred to as “the third eye.” This point is used to improve concentration, mental clarity, cognitive function, soothes emotions and relieves stress, anxiety and agitation.

Promote Sleep:  Massage extra point “Anmian” at the base of the skull along with Yintang mentioned above.

(Interesting that Ambien the sleep medication has a similar name!)

Tena Scarber, LAc

Tena Scarber, LAc

Tena Scarber, M.S., L.Ac. is the founder of Innovative Healing Center. She holds three degrees: Respiratory Therapy, a B.S. in Exercise Physiology and a Master of Science in Oriental Medicine. She has over 30 years of experience in traditional and alternative medicine. read more...