New Method for Pain Relief in Acupuncture Discovered by Professor Yi-Hung Chen and NTU Research Team

Date: October 26, 2018

Professor Yi-Hung Chen of CMU Graduate Institute of Acupuncture cooperated with professor Lih-Chu Chiou’s research team from NTU Graduate Institute of Pharmacology. They discovered a new method for pain relief in acupuncture “Median nerve stimulation induces analgesia via orexin initiated endocannabinoid disinhibition in the periaqueductal gray”. The research finding was published on the journal “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS)” in October 2018; it provided a new strategy for pain treatment and received high attention by international scholars and media.

This research found that after electroacupuncture the inner pass (小鼠內關穴), the stimulation of the median nerve will cause the hypothalamic neurons to release a neuropeptide “orexin” to the pain control region at the midbrain. Moreover, the simulation will promote endogenous endocannabinoid release, thus reduce activity of inhibitory neuron. In the end it leads to analgesic effects, and the analgesic mechanism is not related to endorphins.

Professor Chen said, “This research clarified the neurophysiological changes of pain relief in acupuncture, which will make traditional therapy more acceptable to public and benefit more patients. It also provides a new theoretical basis for the painkiller development in the future.” The teams of professor Chen and professor Chiou have been working together since 2012. The research work took 6 years to complete.

Acupuncture has been implemented in Chinese medicine for more than 2,500 years. Nowadays, many western countries also incorporated acupuncture into conventional medical treatments. The World Health Organization has specified that acupuncture can be used to treat 64 diseases or symptoms, among them pain is the most common. Although the most widely accepted theory in acupuncture pain treatment is the endorphins theory, the effect of endorphins is not fully understood yet.

Professor Yi-Hung Chen is currently the associate dean of CMU School of Chinese Medicine, the secretary general of the Neuroscience Society of Taiwan. Under the leadership of chancellor Wen-Hwa Lee and vice president Lu-Hai Wang, CMU’s Chinese medicine research focuses on exploring Chinese medicine through modern medical technology, and applying the evidence of modern medicine to illustrate the efficacy and principles of Chinese medicine.


Professor Yi-Hung Chen