Acupuncture is an ancient East Asian healing modality that has been in use for more than 2000 years. Unfortunately, its mechanisms of action are not well understood, and controversy regarding its clinical efficacy remains. Importantly, acupuncture needling often evokes complex somatosensory sensations and may modulate the cognitive/affective perception of pain, suggesting that many effects are supported by the brain and extending central nervous system (CNS) networks. Modern neuroimaging techniques such as functional magnetic resonance imaging, positron emission tomography, electroencephalography, and magnetoencephalography provide a means to safely monitor brain activity in humans and may be used to help map the neurophysiological correlates of acupuncture. In this review, we will summarize data from acupuncture neuroimaging research and discuss how these findings contribute to current hypotheses of acupuncture action.
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