HYMS Lecturer in Biological Sciences Dr Aziz Asghar has collaborated in research which featured in The BBC2 series "Trust Me I'm a Doctor" on Wednesday 15 October.
Alongside Dr Hugh MacPherson, a senior research fellow at the University of York's Department of Health Sciences, Dr Asghar and staff at the York Neuroimaging Centre looked at evidence for the way acupuncture may affect pain centres in the brain.
They took 17 healthy subjects and Dr MacPherson gave them acupuncture while they lay in a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scanner at the centre. Their brains were scanned as the acupuncture was performed in order to look for evidence of changes in areas of the brain associated with pain.
Dr Asghar said: “It is interesting and exciting as a neuroscientist to investigate the question of what the underlying brain neurophysiological changes might be with acupuncture, an intervention which is controversial.”
They scanned participants undergoing acupuncture using state-of-the-art functional MRI and magnetoencephalography scanners at the neuroimaging centre.
One of the main findings was a blood flow reduction with acupuncture in a number of brain areas associated with the processing of pain, especially in participants who experienced the needling sensation deqi (a dull aching sensation).
They also found alterations in brain wave rhythms with acupuncture.
However, there is a great deal of work to be done yet to find out how these findings could explain how acupuncture produces its effect, Dr Asghar pointed out.
In May this year the experiment was repeated, this time using just a single subject: “Trust Me I'm A Doctor” presenter Dr Saleyha Ashan.
She lay in the MRI scanner at York while Dr MacPherson gave her acupuncture and simultaneously her brain was scanned.
Frontiers in Human Neuroscience