|Dennis Weigel, L. Ac.|
In recent years, a plethora of studies have been conducted in the field of neuroscience using frequency magnetic resonance imaging (fmri) to study the effects of acupuncture on the brain. One area of focus is the Default Mode Network (DMN), which was first introduced to neuroscience in 2001 and identifies a network of brain regions involved in a resting state. Characteristics of DMN activation include resting, daydreaming, allowing the mind to drift freely, and introspective awareness. This is in contrast to the Task Positive Network (TPN) where the brain is actively involved in a task. This includes working, problem solving, thinking of future events, and extrospective awareness. In a healthy individual, these two networks can toggle freely as needed, and are anti-correlated, meaning when one is active the other is inhibited and vice versa. Ample time spent in each mode is necessary for optimal brain functioning. When enough time is spent in the DMN phase, the brain recharges itself resulting in better performance, decision making, and clear thinking while performing tasks. Studies show that in various mental disorders such as anxiety and depression, there is a lack of cohesive communication within the DMN.
As this topic is being studied scientifically, most mental disorders are being shown to involve a disruption in the DMN such as depression, ADHD, anxiety, schizophrenia, autism, Alzheimer’s and many more. Acupuncture is being shown to activate the DMN, restoring healthy communication among its involved brain regions, giving rise to improved mental states. These results have positive implications on acupuncture’s ability to treat a variety of mental disorders. As more studies are done, and eastern medicine and western medicine collaborate, perhaps a more holistic approach to treating illnesses will make its way into mainstream medicine, and the value of balancing work with rest will become a staple in maintaining good health.