How Does Acupuncture Affect The Brain?

Subtle energy by definition, is energy that’s too subtle to detect by electromagnetic and other traditional means. Much of subtle energy research currently relies on our ability to measure the effects that subtle energy has on living beings. Today, many researchers are utilizing modern medical equipment to test the effectiveness of energy healing.

Acupuncture, for example, is an energy healing method that dates back as far as 6,000 BCE. Documents sealed in the Ma-Wang-Dui tomb in China revealed an early version of the meridian system that dates back to 198 BCE. Today, this modality is an integral part of Chinese medicine, and countless individuals have reported successful, lasting benefits from their treatments.

If you’re not yet familiar with acupuncture, a typical treatment is given to individuals after assessment by a practitioner. The recipient will then lay down, and receive a painless needle or pressure stimulation to the surface layer of the skin on a specific point on the body. These are known as a meridian points, or acupoints. These energetic centers correspond with the different organs and systems within the body. Through this method of treatment, energy flow of qi, or life-force energy, is balanced and restored for greater health.

Dissection of the body, as well as the study of anatomy was forbidden in ancient China during the times that acupuncture was being developed. However, modern analysis proves that 360 out of 361 acupuncture points are in direct proximity to major nerves in the body. Stimulating these points would therefore mean the transference of qi, or life force energy, into the major electromagnetic pathways of the body.

While it is difficult to detect the meridians themselves, we can study how their stimulation causes the body to react. For example, if acupuncture points correspond to our nerves, and the brain is our nervous system’s head-quarters; how does the brain respond during acupuncture treatment? Only in recent decades have we had the technological means to answer this question.

Using functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging, or fMRI, we are able to view the activity of the brain in real-time. Researchers, including Dr. Joie Jones, former professor of Radiological Sciences at University of California, Irvine, conducted studies to see how signals from acupuncture were being received and interpreted by the brain.

A series of experiments stimulated the accpoint VA1 on a blindfolded participant. This point is located on the foot, but in the acupuncture system, it is associated with vision. It would seem that the activity that goes on in our feet would have nothing to do with the ability to see, but this study proved otherwise.

According to the results, when the acupuncture needle was administered to this point, the fMRI showed an increase of blood flow to the visual cortex in the brain. To compare, a nearby area that is not considered to be an acupuncture point also received stimulation. However, this time no response in the visual cortex occurred. The study concluded that this acupuncture point did in fact relate to the part of the body that it has been associated with for thousands of years.

Dr. Jones experimented with other methods of meridian stimulation as well:

“Using medical imaging techniques, such as fMRI, the stimulation of certain acupuncture points can be shown to correlate with activity in corresponding regions of the brain. Identical activity is also seen if the acupoint is stimulated with a pulse of ultrasound rather than a needle.”

Additionally, Dr. Jones tried one more method of acupoint stimulation – remote healing. Two advanced healers were asked to hold their hands at a close distance from the patient, and focus their energy on point UB67. This is another point on the foot that is associated with vision. Amazingly, this method of stimulation was sufficient to light up the visual cortex of the patient on the fMRI scan.

This process was repeated at a greater distance. Somehow, the healers achieved an equally powerful response on the fMRI. Distance from the patient didn’t matter. Therefore, in addition to confirming the link between the acupoint and its intended target, Jones also added another piece of evidence towards the effectiveness of healing at a distance.   

Additionally, a study of brainwave comparison via EEG showed that the meridians could be the key to unlocking chemical-free means of sedation. They tested the effects of acupuncture, acupressure, and Laserneedle stimulation to acupoints associated with sedation. (Litscher, 2004) The results reliably produced similar brainwave patterns found in someone who was under anesthesia.

Further studies were conducted that resulted in fMRI evidence that the brain responds differently to yin and yang energy treatments, providing additional confirmation to support the energetic claims of the acupuncture system. These studies on the health benefits of acupuncture have been investigated, repeated and confirmed by researchers Seidentoph, 2002; Biella, 2001; Hsieh, 2001; and Wu, in 2002. The growing popularity of acupuncture may have some of its roots in the mounting body of scientific evidence for its effectiveness.


Jones, Joie. (2002). Ultrasonic Acupuncture and the Correlation Between Acupuncture Stimulation and the Activation of Associated Brain Cortices Using Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging. Bulletin of Science, Technology & Society. 22. 362-370. 10.1177/027046702236888.

Life Force: The Scientific Basis, Dr. Claude Swanson

Activate Your Meridian System

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