Acupuncture has been used to treat amnestic mild cognitive impairment (aMCI) for many years in China. However, the long-term effects of continuous acupuncture treatment remained unclear. Objective. We aimed to explore the long-term effects of continuous acupuncture treatment on hippocampal functional connectivity (FC) in aMCI.
Fifty healthy control (HC) participants and 28 aMCI patients were recruited for resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) at baseline. The 28 aMCI patients were then divided into the aMCI acupuncture group, which received acupuncture treatment for 6 months, and the aMCI control group, which received no intervention. All aMCI patients completed the second resting-state fMRI scanning after 6 months of acupuncture treatment. Analysis based on the region of interest and two-way analysis of covariance were both used to explore the long-term effects of acupuncture on cognition change and hippocampal FC in aMCI.
Compared to HC, aMCI showed decreased right hippocampal FC with the right inferior/middle temporal gyrus (ITG/MTG), left amygdala, and the right fusiform and increased FC with bilateral caudates at baseline. After acupuncture treatment, the right hippocampal FC with right ITG/MTG enhanced significantly in the aMCI acupuncture group, but continued to decrease in the aMCI control group. Whole brain FC analysis showed enhanced right hippocampal FC with the right ITG and the left MTG in the aMCI acupuncture group relative to the aMCI control group. Furthermore, FC strength of the right hippocampus with right ITG at baseline was negatively correlated with the changes in memory scores of aMCI acupuncture patients.
Acupuncture treatment could alleviate the progression of cognitive decline and could enhance hippocampal FC with ITG and MTG in aMCI that may be associated with resilience to resistant against neurodegeneration. The findings provided a better understanding of the long-term effects of acupuncture treatment and confirmed the therapeutic role of acupuncture in aMCI.
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