Hypothalamus-related resting brain network underlying short-term acupuncture treatment in primary hypertension
The present study attempted to explore modulated hypothalamus-seeded resting brain network underlying the cardiovascular system in primary hypertensive patients after short-term acupuncture treatment. Thirty right-handed patients (14 male) were divided randomly into acupuncture and control groups. The acupuncture group received a continuous five-day acupuncture treatment and undertook three resting-state fMRI scans and 24-hour ambulatory blood pressure monitoring (ABPM) as well as SF-36 questionnaires before, after, and one month after acupuncture treatment. The control group undertook fMRI scans and 24-hour ABPM. For verum acupuncture, average blood pressure (BP) and heart rate (HR) decreased after treatment but showed no statistical differences. There were no significant differences in BP and HR between the acupuncture and control groups. Notably, SF-36 indicated that bodily pain (P = 0.005) decreased and vitality (P = 0.036) increased after acupuncture compared to the baseline. The hypothalamus-related brain network showed increased functional connectivity with the medulla, brainstem, cerebellum, limbic system, thalamus, and frontal lobes. In conclusion, short-term acupuncture did not decrease BP significantly but appeared to improve body pain and vitality. Acupuncture may regulate the cardiovascular system through a complicated brain network from the cortical level, the hypothalamus, and the brainstem.