We investigated commonalities and differences in brain responses to enhanced bodily attention around acupuncture points with and without stimulation. Fourteen participants received acupuncture needles at both PC6 and HT7 acupoints in the left hand. To enhance bodily attention to acupoints, participants responded to the locations of stimulations in a two-alternative forced choice task. Two fMRI scans were taken in a block design: session 1 labeled with manual stimulation (genuine stimulation) and session 2 labeled with electro-acupuncture (pseudo-stimulation). To compare cortical activation patterns, data were analyzed using the Freesurfer software package. Both genuine-and pseudo-stimulation resulted in brain activations in the insula, anterior cingulate cortex, secondary somatosensory cortex, superior parietal cortex, and brain deactivation in the medial prefrontal cortex, posterior cingulate cortex, inferior parietal cortex, and the parahippocampus. Genuine acupuncture stimulation exhibited greater brain activation in the posterior insula, posterior operculum and the caudal part of the anterior cingulate cortex, compared with pseudo-stimulation. We demonstrated that enhanced bodily attention triggered by genuine acupuncture stimulation can activate the salience network and deactivate the default mode network regardless of the type of stimulation. The component of enhanced attention to a certain part of the body is significant in the brain response to acupuncture stimulation.
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