PURPOSE: To investigate the acupoint specificity by exploring the effective connectivity patterns of the poststimulus resting brain networks modulated by acupuncture at the PC6, with the same meridian acupoint PC7 and different meridian acupoint GB37. MATERIALS AND METHODS: The functional MRI (fMRI) study was performed in 36 healthy right-handed subjects receiving acupuncture at three acupoints, respectively. Due to the sustained effects of acupuncture, a novel experimental paradigm using the nonrepeated event-related (NRER) design was adopted. Psychophysical responses (deqi sensations) were also assessed. Finally, a newly multivariate Granger causality analysis (mGCA) was used to analyze effective connectivity patterns of the resting fMRI data taken following acupuncture at three acupoints. RESULTS: Following acupuncture at PC6, the red nucleus and substantia nigra emerged as central hubs, in comparison with the fusiform gyrus following acupuncture at GB37. Red nucleus was also a target following acupuncture at PC7, but with fewer inputs than those of PC6. In addition, the most important target following acupuncture at PC7 was located at the parahippocampus. CONCLUSION: Our findings demonstrated that acupuncture at different acupoints may exert heterogeneous modulatory effects on the causal interactions of brain areas during the poststimulus resting state. These preliminary findings provided a clue to elucidate the relatively function-oriented specificity of acupuncture effects.
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