Boosting the effect of acupuncture needles with small electric currents may be effective in treating depression, a study in Hong Kong has found.
Led by Zhang Zhang-jin at the School of Chinese Medicine, University of Hong Kong, the researchers used electro-acupuncture to stimulate seven spots on the heads of 73 participants, who had suffered several bouts of depression in the last seven years.
The electro acupuncture was given in addition to medication that the patients were already taking and meant to augment their treatment, Zhang said.
Brain centres stimulated
Half the patients received electro-acupuncture nine times over three weeks, while the other half - the placebo group - only had needles inserted superficially into their heads.
"The drop (in depression scores) among the group receiving active treatment was more significant than (in) the placebo group," said Roger Ng, another researcher in the group, which published its findings in PLoS ONE.
"When the acupoints are stimulated, some brain centres responsible for producing serotonin are stimulated," explained Ng, a consultant at the department of psychiatry at the Kowloon Hospital in Hong Kong.
Zhang said his group may consider moving into another trial using only electro-acupuncture on patients suffering milder depression.
(Tan Ee Lyn, Reuters Health, March 2012)
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