Mechanisms underlying the effect of acupuncture on cognitive improvement: A systematic review of animal studies

Mason Chin Pang Leung, Ka Keung Yip, Yuen Shan Ho, Flora Ka Wai Siu, Wai Chin Li, Belinda Garner

Research output: Journal article publicationReview articleAcademic researchpeer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)


Acupuncture has been reported to be beneficial in treating cognitive impairment in various pathological conditions. This review describes the effort to understand the signaling pathways that underlie the acupunctural therapeutic effect on cognitive function. We searched the literature in 12 electronic databases from their inception to November 2013, with full text available and language limited to English. Twenty-three studies were identified under the selection criteria. All recruited animal studies demonstrate a significant positive effect of acupuncture on cognitive impairment. Findings suggest acupuncture may improve cognitive function through modulation of signaling pathways involved in neuronal survival and function, specifically, through promoting cholinergic neural transmission, facilitating dopaminergic synaptic transmission, enhancing neurotrophin signaling, suppressing oxidative stress, attenuating apoptosis, regulating glycometabolic enzymes and reducing microglial activation. However, the quality of reviewed studies has room for improvement. Further high-quality animal studies with randomization, blinding and estimation of sample size are needed to strengthen the recognition of group differences.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)492-507
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of NeuroImmune Pharmacology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2014


  • Acupuncture
  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Cognitive
  • Dementia
  • Parkinson's disease

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience (miscellaneous)
  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology
  • Pharmacology


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