Shopping Basket

Your basket is empty

An international team of researchers has used ‘phantom acupuncture’ - a novel form of sham acupuncture that uses visual manipulation to induce credible needling sensations without a tactile component - to investigate the difference between real and sham acupuncture. Fifty-six non-specific low back pain patients received either real or phantom acupuncture. Both groups experienced pain reduction. The real acupuncture group exhibited greater activation in the posterior insula and anterior cingulate cortex, reflecting the needling-specific components of acupuncture. The phantom group showed greater activation in the bilateral dorsolateral/ventrolateral prefrontal cortex. Members of the phantom group were further classified into those who experienced the procedure as credible or not, based on whether they believed that they had experienced real acupuncture or recognised the procedure as a sham. Those who had experienced the phantom needling as credible reported vicarious acupuncture sensations without needling stimulation, and also exhibited bilateral activation in the brain’s somatosensory cortex. The authors conclude that their results support an expectation-related placebo analgesic effect on subjective pain intensity ratings, possibly mediated by right prefrontal cortex activity.

Phantom Acupuncture Induces Placebo Credibility and Vicarious Sensations: A Parallel fMRI Study of Low Back Pain Patients. Sci Rep. 2018 Jan 17;8(1):930.


Not yet subscribed?

Subscribe to the Journal of Chinese Medicine now from only £30.00 per year. Your subscription will include:

Subscribe now