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Clinical Trial ARTICLE Provisionally accepted The full-text will be published soon. Notify me

Front. Aging Neurosci. | doi: 10.3389/fnagi.2019.00237

Effects of acupuncture therapy on MCI patients using functional near-infrared spectroscopy

  • 1School of Mechanical Engineering, Pusan National University, South Korea
  • 2Daejeon Korean Medicine Hospital of Daejeon University, South Korea
  • 3Dunsan Hospital, South Korea

Acupuncture therapy (AT) is a nonpharmacological method of treatment that has been applied to various neurological diseases. However, studies on its longitudinal effect on the neural mechanisms of patients with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) for treatment purposes are still lacking in the literature. In this clinical study, we assess the longitudinal effects of ATs on MCI patients using two methods: i) Montreal Cognitive Assessment test (MoCA-K, Korean version), and ii) the hemodynamic response (HR) analyses using functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS). fNIRS signals of a working memory (WM) task were acquired from the prefrontal cortex. Twelve elderly MCI patients and twelve healthy people were recruited as target and healthy control (HC) groups, respectively. Each group went through an fNIRS scanning procedure three times: The initial data were obtained without any ATs, and subsequently a total of 24 AT sessions were conducted for MCI patients (i.e., MCI-0: the data prior to ATs, MCI-1: after 12 sessions of ATs for 6 weeks, MCI-2: another 12 sessions of ATs for 6 weeks). The mean HR responses of all MCI-0~2 cases were lower than those of HCs. To compare the effects of AT on MCI patients, MoCA-K results, temporal HR data, and spatial activation patterns (i.e., t-maps) were examined. In addition, analyses of functional connectivity and graph theory upon WM tasks were conducted. With ATs, i) the averaged MoCA-K test scores were improved (MCI-1, p = 0.002; MCI-2, p = 2.9e-4); ii) the mean HR response of WM tasks were increased (p < 0.001); and iii) the t-maps of MCI-1 and MCI-2 were enhanced. Furthermore, an increased functional connectivity in the prefrontal cortex in both MCI-1/MCI-2 cases in comparison to MCI-0 was obtained (p < 0.01), and an increasing trend in the graph theory parameters was observed. All these findings reveal that ATs have a positive impact on improving the cognitive function of MCI patients. In conclusion, ATs can be used as a therapeutic tool for MCI patients as a nonpharmacological method. (Clinical trial registration number: KCT 0002451,

Keywords: mild cognitive impairment (MCI), Alzheimer’s disease (AD), functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS), Acupuncture Therapy, Prefrontal Cortex, hemodynamic response, connectivity, graph theory, Cognition

Received: 10 May 2019; Accepted: 16 Aug 2019.

Copyright: © 2019 Ghafoor, Lee, Hong, Park, Kim and Yoo. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence:
Prof. Keum-Shik Hong, School of Mechanical Engineering, Pusan National University, Busan, South Korea,
Dr. Ho-Ryong Yoo, Dunsan Hospital, Daejeon, South Korea,