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Papers of the Week

Papers: 31 Dec 2022 - 6 Jan 2023

2023 Jan 05


Psychological and neurological predictors of acupuncture effect in chronic pain patients: a randomized controlled neuroimaging trial.


Wang X, Li J-L, Wei X-Y, Shi G-X, Zhang N, Tu J-F, Yan C-Q, Zhang Y-N, Hong Y-Y, Yang J-W, Wang L-Q, Liu C-Z
Pain. 2023 Jan 05.
PMID: 36602299.


Chronic pain has been one of the leading causes of disability. Acupuncture is globally used in chronic pain management. However, the efficacy of acupuncture treatment varies across patients. Identifying individual factors and developing approaches that predict medical benefits may promise important scientific and clinical applications. Here, we investigated the psychological and neurological factors collected prior to treatment that would determine acupuncture efficacy in knee osteoarthritis. In this neuroimaging-based randomized controlled trial, 52 patients completed a baseline assessment, 4-week acupuncture or sham-acupuncture treatment, and an assessment after treatment. The patients, magnetic resonance imaging operators, and outcome evaluators were blinded to treatment group assignment. First, we found that patients receiving acupuncture treatment showed larger pain intensity improvements compared to patients in the sham-acupuncture arm. Second, positive expectation, extraversion, and emotional attention were correlated with the magnitude of clinical improvements in the acupuncture group. Third, the identified neurological metrics encompassed striatal volumes, posterior cingulate cortex (PCC) cortical thickness, PCC/precuneus fractional amplitude of low-frequency fluctuation (fALFF), striatal fALFF, and graph-based small-worldness of the DMN and striatum. Specifically, functional metrics predisposing patients to acupuncture improvement changed as a consequence of acupuncture treatment while structural metrics remained stable. Furthermore, support vector machine models applied to the questionnaire and brain features could jointly predict acupuncture improvement with an accuracy of 81.48%. Besides, the correlations and models were not significant in the sham-acupuncture group. These results demonstrate the specific psychological, brain functional, and structural predictors of acupuncture improvement and may offer opportunities to aid clinical practices.