NIH Library of Medicine PubMed Central

Journal List  Front Aging Neurosci  PMC9975578

Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) represents a multifaceted and intricate central neurodegenerative condition. Acupuncture emerges as a promising intervention for enhancing cognitive function in individuals with MCI. The persistence of neural plasticity in the MCI brain suggests that the benefits associated with acupuncture may extend beyond cognitive functions. Instead, neurological changes in the brain are pivotal in correlating with cognitive improvements. Despite the positive focus on cognitive effects in previous studies, the understanding of neurological findings remains somewhat ambiguous.

This systematic review aims to consolidate existing studies utilizing diverse brain imaging techniques to elucidate the neurological effects of acupuncture in the treatment of MCI. Potential neuroimaging trials were meticulously sought, collected, and assessed independently by two researchers. Searches spanned four Chinese databases, four English databases, and additional sources, covering studies reporting acupuncture use for MCI from database inception until June 1, 2022. The Cochrane risk-of-bias tool was employed to appraise methodological quality. Additionally, general, methodological, and brain neuroimaging information was extracted and synthesized to explore potential neural mechanisms through which acupuncture influences MCI patients.

In total, 22 studies encompassing 647 participants were included, demonstrating moderate to high methodological quality. Utilizing techniques such as functional magnetic resonance imaging, diffusion tensor imaging, functional near-infrared spectroscopy, and magnetic resonance spectroscopy, acupuncture-induced brain alterations were notably observed in the cingulate cortex, prefrontal cortex, and hippocampus of MCI patients. The impact of acupuncture on MCI may involve the regulation of the default mode network, central executive network, and salience network. These findings suggest the potential for researchers to shift their focus from the cognitive domain to the neurological level. Future research endeavors should strive to develop additional relevant, well-designed, high-quality, and multimodal neuroimaging studies to comprehensively explore the effects of acupuncture on the brains of individuals with MCI.



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