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Abstract Title:

The mechanism of electroacupuncture for depression on basic research: a systematic review.

Abstract Source:

Chin Med. 2021 Jan 13 ;16(1):10. Epub 2021 Jan 13. PMID: 33436036

Abstract Author(s):

Xuke Han, Yang Gao, Xuan Yin, Zhangjin Zhang, Lixing Lao, Qiu Chen, Shifen Xu

Article Affiliation:

Xuke Han


BACKGROUND: Electroacupuncture (EA) is generally accepted as a safe and harmless treatment option for alleviating depression. However, there are several challenges related to the use of EA. Although EA has been shown to be effective in treating depression, the molecular mechanism is unclear.

OBJECTIVE: To reveal the therapeutic effect of EA and its possible mechanism in the treatment of depression.

SEARCH STRATEGY: We performed a systematic search according to PRISMA guidelines. We electronically searched PubMed, Web of Science (WOS), the China National Knowledge Infrastructure (CNKI), Wanfang Data Information Site and the VIP information database for animal studies in English published from the inception of these databases to December 31, 2019.

INCLUSION CRITERIA: Electronic searches of PubMed, WOS, the CNKI, Wanfang and the VIP database were conducted using the following search terms: (depression OR depressive disorder OR antidepressive), (rat OR mouse) AND (acupuncture OR EA).

DATA EXTRACTION AND ANALYSIS: The data were extracted primarily by one author, and a follow-up review was conducted by the other authors.

RESULTS: Twenty-eight articles met the inclusion criteria. The most commonly used method for inducing depression in animal models was 21 days of chronic unpredictable mild stress. For the depression model, the most commonly selected EA frequency was 2 Hz. Among the 28 selected studies, 11 studies observed depression-related behaviors and used them as indicators of EA efficacy. The other 17 studies focused on mechanisms and assessed the indexes that exhibited abnormalities that were known to result from depression and then returned to a normal range after EA treatment. Treatment of depression by EA involves multiple therapeutic mechanisms, including inhibition of HPA axis hyperactivity and inflammation, regulation of neuropeptides and neurotransmitters, modulation of the expression of particular genes, restoration of hippocampal synaptic plasticity, increased expression of BDNF, and regulation of several signaling pathways.

CONCLUSIONS: This review reveals that the mechanisms underlying the effect of acupuncture involve multiple pathways and targets, suggesting that acupuncture is a wholistic treatment for people rather than for diseases. Our findings also explain why acupuncture can treat various disorders in addition to depression.

Study Type : Review
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