Background: Using functional neuroimaging techniques to explore the central mechanism
of acupoint specificity, the key of acupuncture theory and clinical practice, has attracted
increasing attention worldwide. This review aimed to investigate the current status of functional
neuroimaging studies on acupoint specificity and explore the potential influencing factors for the
expression of acupoint specificity in neuroimaging studies.
Methods: PubMed database was searched from January 1st, 1995 to December 31st, 2016 with the
language restriction in English. Data including basic information, methodology and study results
were extracted and analyzed from the eligible records.
Results: Seventy-nine studies were finally enrolled. 65.8% of studies were performed in China,
73.4% of studies were conducted with healthy subjects, 77.2% of studies chose manual
acupuncture as the intervention, 86.1% of studies focused on the instant efficacy and 89.9% of
studies used functional magnetic resonance imaging as scanning technique. The average sample
size was 16 per group. The comparison of verum acupoints and sham acupoints were the main
body of acupoint specificity researches. 93.7% of studies obtained the positive results and favored
the existence of acupoint specificity.
Conclusion: This review affirmed the existence of acupoint specificity and deemed that the
acupoint specificity was relative. Multiple factors such as participants, sample size, acupoint combinations,
treatment courses, and types of acupoint could influence the expression of acupoint